(Image Credit: “La Familia” by Jesus “Cimi” Alvarado. El Paso, Texas. )
Mark Seitz, bishop of El Paso devotes part II of his pastoral letter on racism to a history lesson. It is an assignment well worth our reading. He recalls words of the Psalmist at its start:
They open their mouths against me,
lions that rend and roar.
Psalm 22, 14
Tú no vales. You don’t count.
21. We in the borderlands understand in our bones the reality of hate directed at Mexicans and how people can be ‘othered’. Our faith community was born in the fraught encounter between Indigenous communities and Spanish colonists, a ‘choque de culturas’. In that encounter, an insidious message was sent like the report of cannon fire throughout the American continent which reverberates to the present day: Tú no vales. You don’t count.
22. A sober reading of the history of colonization can discern both the presence of a genuine Christian missionary impulse as well as the deployment of white supremacy and cultural oppression as tools of economic ambition, imperial adventurism and political expansion.
It cannot be separated out, these sins: greed, power, and empty glory.
Read the summary of history in Bishop Seitz’s document. It puts things in perspective: religious persecution in 16th century Spain, intermarriage, shifting international borders, human migration, the settling of white privilege in 19th century Texas, and others in that litany of sin.
There is good news, too:
40. Great progress has been made in recent years, with the passage of civil rights legislation, victories in the courts, and hard won wins of civically engaged communities, genuine public servants and organizers in the workplace. Latinos have worked hard to build a more just society. Our schools and universities are more reflective of our population and are more bilingual. Our children have graduated from distinguished academic institutions to become fine theologians, teachers, doctors and lawyers. Our community has demonstrated remarkable hospitality to migrants and refugees. Borderland culture is more and more seen as an asset to celebrate rather than a deficit of which to be ashamed. Our Church has also made progress; Patrick Flores was named bishop of El Paso in 1978, the first Mexican American bishop in the United States. Latino/a theologians have long offered inspired insights on these matters. In my pastoral reflections here I stand upon their shoulders. Those in leadership in our diocesan church increasingly reflect our population. Our liturgies, with diverse language and song, more fully anticipate the diversity and unity of the Reign of God.
Paragraphs 21 through 45: read, please.