Almost a year and a half ago, the world embarked on a rollercoaster of social uncertainty and death caused by the then-novel Coronavirus. Since its inception, COVID-19 has been part of the common parlance of the world. Knowing about the rapid spread of the Coronavirus was made possible by the exponential growth of communications technology and a new generation of people whose preferred mode of interaction is through digital devices. Through that same technology, we saw the emergence of the struggles of the Black Lives Matter movement. We found out about the death of several Black and racialized peoples at the hands of the police and immigration authorities. We learned about the profound systemic social, political, and economic inequities that shape our societies, including access to COVID-19 vaccination. And we also got to watch and listen, in real-time, the captivating and challenging poem of Amanda Gorman, as she spoke during the inauguration of newly elected USA President Joe Biden. We found out about multiple changes in the political arena across the world and the unjust war that Israel carries against Palestinians. Our digital devices also allowed us to be virtual eyewitnesses of the unmarked burial site where 215 children were buried on the grounds of the Catholic Indian Residential schools at Kamloops, British Colombia. Meanwhile, human existence is increasingly threatened by the potential of an environmental apocalypse and by the emergence of super viruses resistant to drugs.
The news about incidents, tragedies, or emerging movements in the world quickly become old news because of the neck-break speed at which we are bombarded with information. At no point in human history have we been aware of the fast-changing pace of reality and of our cultural traditions to the degree we are now. It seems we have become enthralled by the “latest” and the “newest” piece of news and information by staying connected. Yet, this same wealth and accessibility to communications technology also contribute to our reduced ability to concentrate, to pay attention, and to connect at a personal human level. These many questions are undoubtedly the result of the new reality we confront as the world has continued to shrink and as we become painfully aware of our own destructive power in this planet of ours. These multiple issues I mention are not just topics for further discussion and exploration; they are part of the very processes of the undergoing cultural reconfiguration we are experiencing across the globe. These topics are also part of the complex array of interconnected social forces emerging as the world becomes more aware of the legacy of colonization, and the efforts of collective struggles for justice around the globe.
Amidst this jungle of social issues, cultural concerns, and human challenges, religious devotion and spiritualities seem to be gaining ground. But these are no longer dominated by Christianity. A new interreligious ferment is emerging as new digital churches, mosques, and centers of spirituality are popping up everywhere, even while scandals of religious leaders continue to emerge, and entire tragedies can be directly connected to religion and theology. It seems we are finally coming to grips with the fact that theology can be counted as yet another accomplice in the colonizing project. For religious scholars and theologians, it is no longer business as usual. As people wrestle with the many losses of loved ones whose lives have been cut short due to the Coronavirus, questions about the meaning of life are resurfacing. Not surprisingly, liberation theologies and decolonizing attitudes are gaining ground with renewed force in their dis-covering of the multiplicity of issues of which theology must be mindful, besides being aware of the necessity to think about the reality on the ground—where people live life and weave their religious traditions in their everyday life.
On that note, and as part of this mix of emerging issues today, we are happy to offer you the 2021 issue of Perspectivas. Each of the articles helps us amplify our visions and understanding of the Latina/o/x religious experience in response to contemporary issues pertinent to these communities. In the first article, Neomi DeAnda presents a rich interlacing of historical events, mythological accounts, and popular religious customs in the devotion of María de la Leche in two different sites. De Anda retraces some of the historical aspects that contributed to the emergence of such devotions, how they have changed over time, and how they have endured the test of time. Indeed, Latinas/os/xs are not unfamiliar with hope and hopelessness, as the second article by César Baldelomar’s exemplifies. Taking a robust philosophical approach, he engages the field of ethics and the pervasive emphasis of a Christian hope for an otherworldly reality. Baldelomar challenges romantic and utopic notions of hope with what he calls a “realist” stance, claiming the rich tradition of Afro-pessimism and Latina/o/x hopelessness. He draws on these rich traditions to reorient our ethical imagination toward future possibilities. It is precisely that future that Hanna Kang, in the third article, invites us to reconsider even as we revise our past. Much in line with the work of Breny Mendoza by claiming the Arabs as part of the mix of mestizaje in Honduras, and much in the way of Ricardo Feierstein claiming the Jewish presence in Argentina, Kang amplifies our vision of mestizaje yet again by registering the Asian presence both in Latin America and among Latinas/os/xs. She further broadens our vision of this contested term carving out spaces where we can reclaim the Asian presence among us.
In this 2021 issue of Perspectivas, we are particularly honored to also offer the presentations celebrating Peter Mena’s HTI 2020 Book of the year award. We are happy to provide these presentations by Jacqueline Hidalgo, Luis Rivera Pagán, and Kristi Upson-Saia, including Mena’s response to these presentations. Each of these presentations and Mena’s response illustrate the growing edges of Latina/o/x theologies and their versatility in engaging critical theoretical frameworks and ancient texts.
We offer this issue as a resource and invitation to continue our work across academic and non-academic plains.
Néstor Medina, Senior Editor.