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On the Move: A History of the Hispanic Church in the United States.

Moises Sandoval has written an intriguing account of the Hispanic churches in the United States. When reading his account of the penitentes in New Mexico, for example, one cannot help but wonder whether this is primarily history or story.

Los penitentes were societies of laymen who led the religious life of their communities in the absence of clergy--which in those days was more the norm than the exception. Although they may have been extremists in their penitent practices and ascetic worldview (today they would likely be called fanatics), it was through their mediation that the Hispanic faith was preserved in their communities. That faith carried both the net of Christian symbols and beliefs inherited from their Spanish ancestors as well as their cultural identity, even after those communities lost their lands and some of their language to white America.

As a Roman Catholic (the editor of Maryknoll, the monthly magazine of the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America), Sandoval thought it better to invite a Protestant, Edwin Sylvest, Jr., to analyze Hispanic Protestantism in the United States. Sylvest's chapter is a positive introduction to the subject for English-language readers. On the Move articulates well the Hispanic ad extra criticism of this society. The articulation of an ad intra criticism of the Hispanic faith would have made the book better. How much of the penitente's worldview survives in today's Hispanic communities, Catholic and Protestant? What is its impact on the life of those communities? Is it to be reaffirmed or challenged?

Ruy O. Costa, Associate Director for Public Policy, Massachusetts Council of Churches, edited One Faith, Many Cultures (Orbis, 1988) and is co-editor of Struggles for Solidarity (Fortress Press, forthcoming).
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Author:Costa, Ruy O.
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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