Responding to the needs and demands of his era, José Míguez Bonino proved instrumental in thinking with his feet on the ground amid uncertainty, turmoil, and despair. As with other liberation theologians, his theological and ethical work drew on the lived experiences of the faith of the people amidst struggles toward building a better and more just society and world. His theological work speaks to us candidly, especially today, as we grapple with the multiple ways the present COVID-19 global pandemic has affected us all directly. Human relations and cultural dynamics are being reconfigured as we speak. As we come to grips with racialized prejudice targeting members of the Asian communities in relation to COVID-19, we are eerily reminded that the ugly history of blaming ethnic groups for the outbreak of a disease is nothing new. Social distancing (or more accurately, physical distancing) has also brought new levels of suspicion of others as potential carriers of the virus.
Perhaps the novel COVID-19 has come to be the great “equalizer,” whereby people from all over the world and from all walks of life and social spheres are directly affected. What we do know for certain is that the social, political, and economic arrangements that have shaped the present geopolitical structures have clearly revealed the socio-economic disparities that have benefited specific sectors of society at the expense of over-exploited minoritized groups. For example, lack of accessibility to economic resources, proper medication and equipment, medical insurance, and outright access to a hospital bed, are part of a far greater and older scale of global inequality, which has remained hidden behind the façade of advancement and modernization locally and globally. Minoritized communities are particularly bearing the brunt and negative effects of the COVID-19 virus, even while filling the ranks of essential services in the food, farming, cleaning, and many other industries.
Latinas/os/xs are among the hardest hit as only 16 percent of us can carry out their working responsibilities at home. Social distancing (physical distancing) is a luxury, which many in these communities cannot afford. A good number of Latinas/os/xs simply need to continue working or else risk losing their homes or not saving up for their children’s education. While working, they jeopardize their lives in order to supply the needs of the larger society.
Historically, Latinas/os/xs have experienced a conglomeration of challenges to our collective wellbeing. Some of our ancestors experienced times of war and despoliation during the Spanish and Portuguese conquest. Let’s not forget the tens of millions of natives who died because of epidemics, which decimated Indigenous communities in the Americas after 1492.
The slave trade had similar deadly consequences, as Latin America received the largest population of African slaves, many of whom died along the way, were thrown to the oceans, or died of disease or outright exhaustion from working in the mines or in the fields. These slaves saw their lives commodified as chattel, without recourse for a life of freedom. As we recall the experiences of the African descendants in Latin America and among Latinas/os/xs, we affirm that Black Lives Matter. Part of our own role as Latina/o/x scholars is to expose and condemn prevailing anti-African overt and covert attitudes of discrimination in our communities. We must publicly acknowledge that our own communities are directly impacted by and often are rife with racist attitudes. Thus, we reject to be part of any form of racism and discrimination.
Many of our ancestors experienced displacement in the USA-Mexico war (1848) and continue to feel the effects of that war in our own neighborhoods. Still others, with more recent connections with Latin America have seen friends and relatives criminalized or die as they have tried to cross the southern border of the USA or as the women in their families have been victims of femicide. While many in the dominant Anglo culture want to go back to normal, for most Latinas/os/xs, “going back to normal” means the continued perpetuation of the over-exploitation of our communities. We have always lived under exceptional conditions of discrimination and lack of opportunities. Those exceptional conditions have designated most of us, at best, for service at the lowest echelons of society, and at worst, for death. For centuries, our communities have come face-to-face with the tensions that emerge out of living simultaneously in struggle, hopelessness, and refusal to give up. The unbending will of our communities is a testament to our faith and resilience.
It is with that in mind that we publish this collection of articles celebrating the life and theological work of José Míguez Bonino. The papers in this collection were compiled by Néstor Morales Gómez, and we recognize his editorial work in this issue of Perspectivas. Míguez Bonino’s thought has inspired generations of scholars and thinkers in understanding the interconnectedness of the social sciences, political theory, and deep, locally-grounded theological knowledge. The contributions in this issue of Perspectivas help us celebrate Míguez Bonino’s work, as well as offer important insights as we continue to reflect on what it means to think theologically while remaining locally relevant and contextually located.
The editorial team of Perspectivas is happy to offer this collection of articles as an expression of the rich diversity of liberation ideas, insights, concerns, and questions raised by each of the authors. Each piece helps us see the extent the liberation impetus has travelled and the many allies it has gained and impacted over the years.
The Perspectivas editorial team
Francisco Javier Peláez Díaz