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El Mandató Cultural

By Jonathan Cortina
In eLetter
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If you happen to notice more Mexican or Latin American flags this weekend, it’s not because someone missed the Cinco de Mayo memo. In fact, September 16th is Mexican Independence Day and September 15th is Independence Day for several other Latin American countries, all kicking off National Hispanic Heritage Month! While I grew up in a Mexican household, it wasn’t until the last six or seven years that Mexican Independence Day and Hispanic Heritage Month began to hold significance for me.

Recently an author was recommended to me by a fellow Latina pastor. This author, Orlando Crespo, says, “I have spent much of my life in this space of multiple identifications, fighting not to choose one over the other, but living in the blessings and contradictions of both.” There are aspects of what Crespo says that I resonate with deeply, and others I wish I resonated with more.

This last Sunday I shared with our Youth at IBC a little about my story through the model of Blessed, Broken, and Given (if you’re in a Formation group, you’ve probably walked through your own story using this same model). I was blessed to grow up in a Spanish speaking church that taught me so much about God and my faith. I was blessed that I grew up in a Mexican household. I was also blessed that my family was sent as missionaries to Chihuahua, Mexico for two years when I was eight years old.

But I also experienced brokenness: brokenness in culture shock. Though I grew up in a Mexican household, it’s completely different moving from one country to another; not to mention doing it again two years later. I lost friends with each move, I said goodbye to family that was close by, and I experienced culture shock again, along with childhood depression, once we made it back to the U.S. when I was in 5th grade.

And yet, in the blessing and brokenness of my story I’ve only grown more confident in what I have been given to—to God’s vision and heart for his multi-ethnic church. I love that at IBC this is such an important distinctive. In all the churches I’ve grown up in, I’ve never seen this many multi-ethnic image bearers come together and labor at becoming one body. I’ve never felt as free to be my full Mexican-American self in a predominantly white evangelical space, much less had it be something my church wanted me to share with the rest of my brothers and sisters.

So even though there are aspects of the duality of my identity that I have not quite reconciled, that has not stopped me from exploring my Mexican heritage. In the same way Jews and Gentiles were encouraged to walk in the freedom of their ethnicity and culture rooted in Christ, today I want to invite you into my journey of doing the same. Here are a few ways you can celebrate and explore Hispanic Heritage Month alongside me and my Latino brothers and Latina sisters:

  • Try authentic foods of our culture that you normally wouldn’t (remember, Tex-Mex does not equal Mexican food). Plus, there’s more than Mexican food! Give Columbian, Salvadorean, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Costa Rican, Nicaraguan, or Guatemalan a try.
  • Visit a Bazaar or a Frutería/Nevería
  • If you want to participate in a Mexican holiday, start with September 16th, not May 5th. Cinco de Mayo isn’t a major Mexican holiday.
  • Be mindful that Latinos have different levels of tolerance towards non-Latinos who might misrepresent or stereotype our culture by wearing Latino clothing/garments. Ask your Latino brothers and Latina sisters what their preference is and use discernment.

God is calling us, the people of Irving Bible Church to become a multi-ethnic movement of missionary disciples, formed in the way of Jesus for the sake of the world. Step into our multi-ethnic becoming.

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