Twenty-one years ago, I walked through the doors of the offices of HTI as an aspiring Ph.D. student and potential awardee of what was then the doctoral fellowship. I did not know then that barely four years before HTI had begun its ambitious plans to chart new paths and create new opportunities for Latinas/os/xs aspiring for further education in religion and theology. Among its objectives was to increase the number of Latinas/os/xs in higher religious and theological education. Since then, HTI has witnessed enormous growth amidst rapidly changing social, cultural, political, and academic landscapes. A long list of Latinas/os/xs would be awardees from different fields of study and disciplines, and today “give back” to the community as scholars, mentors, and resources. This first generation of scholars has become a veritable cloud of witness rallying for the future cohorts of scholars, pastors, and community leaders in multiple contexts prepared with critical skills to navigate the hostile social contexts they confront. From any perspective, the story of HTI is a story of monumental achievements.
We are cautiously optimistic because many of the concerns and challenges faced by Latina/o/x communities that motivated early pioneers to organize and give birth to organizations such as the Association for Hispanic Theological Education/Associación para la Educación Teológica Hispana (AETH), The Hispanic Summer Program/Programa Hispano de Verano (HSP) and the Hispanic Theological Initiave/Iniciative Teológica Hispana (HTI) have not yet been overcome. The reality of COVID-19 and its disastrous effects on our communities have made us even more aware of the obstacles we face. The acute awareness of our precarious social spaces helps us appreciate even more the work of organizations like the aforementioned, especially HTI, constantly bringing to bear the stories, theological insights, publications, and commitments of those men and women who pioneered this work.
The editorial team of Perspectivas is honored to present this 25th-anniversary issue as yet another installment in the growing record of Latina/o/x concerted work and HTI’s living legacy. The articles in this volume contain what can only be called a partial story. Indeed, through Justo González’s article, we learn of the early beginnings, key actors, and high-level negotiations that the first generation of Latinas/os/xs had to engage to give rise to HTI. Daisy Machado’s piece provides another layer of this story by bearing the intimate relationship between HTI and HSP.
The articles illustrate insights into many of the aspects that make HTI particularly successful: from highlighting the unique en/de conjunto method which distinguishes the activities of HTI (João Chaves and Ted Smith), to incorporating the voices of the people on the ground (Jennifer Owens-Jofré), to drawing from multiple disciplinary fields (Robert Chao Romero), to articulating a grounded theology that engages and relevantly responds to the social issues that impact Latinas/os/xs (María Teresa Dávila). Indeed, HTI has been front and center of these developments in Academia. Through these articles, we also learn that HTI has become a hub of creative scholarly interdisciplinary endeavors, which have impacted and continue to impact the academy through multiple written and social media platforms (Cármen Nanko). But the academy is not the only place where HTI scholars are present. Socorro Castañeda teaches us that it is possible to envision a life and career beyond the academy, and Elizabeth Conde-Frazier shows how HTI scholars have remained with one foot in the academy and the other in pastoral or community leadership, breaking away from traditional ideas that it is impossible to be a hybrid scholar. Above and beyond, through their testimonies, scholars repeatedly remind us that one of HTI’s best-kept secrets is its growing family of scholars, friends, and colleagues who encourage and support each other through networks of connections unrivalled in other academic circles (Gilberto Ruiz and Jacqueline Hidalgo).
Readers will not find in this anniversary issue a complete story. Gaps remain because the story of HTI continues to be unearthed and written. New future developments await HTI. There is renewed energy as a new generation of emerging scholars will bring new perspectives, ideas, and insights that can only elevate HTI to new heights. On this 25-silver anniversary, we are delighted to be part of the story of HTI.
Néstor Medina &
The Editorial Team