Hispanic Heritage Month is a time when all United Methodists in the United States can celebrate diversity and the positive contributions of their Hispanic/Latino brothers and sisters to their communities and congregations.
During the Sept. 15-Oct. 15 observance, many Hispanic/Latino people are remembering their traditions and celebrating their families’ countries of origin and their independences. It offers an opportunity for all church members to better understand their community and the families in it as the population becomes increasingly diverse. Today, 15 per cent of the U.S. population is of Hispanic heritage, but less than one per cent of United Methodist church members are Hispanic.
Hispanic Heritage Month is among the times that congregations that are predominantly of other ethnicities can enrich their ministries as they interact with people whose culture and, perhaps, language are different from theirs. It may be a little uncomfortable at first, but will become easier as you include and allow the people of that heritage to be a part of the planning and execution. If possible, allow the people of the celebrated culture to lead. They will be the experts.
Here are five ways to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in congregations that are predominantly Anglo, African American or another culture that is not Hispanic/Latino.
1. Invite a Hispanic/Latino guest speaker. If your congregation includes a person or family of Hispanic descent, invite them to share their story and talk about their family history. While Hispanic/Latino people face many challenges day-to-day, they can also share and teach many beautiful things from their culture and their life. They might recall favorite memories of growing up or how they or their family migrated. Hispanic/Latinos love to celebrate life and to have people of other cultural backgrounds to celebrate with them.
2. Diverse dishes potluck. Hispanic Heritage Month highlights all of the Hispanic and Latino cultures found within the Americas. There are plenty of dishes from which to choose. Within the Hispanic culture, there is a saying that praises food and its importance — “panza llena, corazón contento.” In English, it means “a full belly makes the heart happy.” Your congregation can organize a Sunday noon dinner event or a meal on another day of the week. People can bring dishes from a specific country in Latin America that they either cook or buy. Here are some sources for recipes:
3. Raise funds for a local organization focused on Hispanic/Latino people. Look for organizations in your community that focus on continuing the Hispanic culture, benefit the Hispanic/Latino community or focus on Hispanic/Latino youth.
4. Visit a cultural center. Cultural centers promote culture and the arts. These can range from art galleries to museums or theaters to artisan pottery shops. Many museums organize folkloric dancing events during Hispanic Heritage Month. Some even take the celebration out to the streets and have food vendors. Contact the cultural center or museums in your community to see how they are taking part during this celebration. Then, take the congregation out to enjoy the richness of Hispanic/Latino culture.
5. Movie night. Movie nights are a great way to engage people of all ages in a church activity — and to introduce your congregation to the day-to-day life of Hispanic/Latino people. You might also have a discussion following the movie. Get comfortable in your fellowship hall and provide snacks. One note: Be sure you have the CCLI license that allows you to show movies legally. Here are some movies you might show:
- “McFarland” (2015), Disney, rated PG: “The true against-all-odds story of the 1987 McFarland High School cross country team in an economically challenged community.” —Rotten Tomatoes
- “Cesar Chavez” (2014) — Canana & Participant Media, PG-13: “a biography of the civil-rights activist and labor organizer Cesar Chavez.” — IMDb
- “Selena” (1997), Warner Bros., PG: “The true story of Selena Quintanilla-Peres, a Texas-born Tejano singer who rose from cult status to performing at the Astrodome, as well as having chart-topping albums on the Latin music charts.” — IMDb
- “Under the Same Moon” (2007), Fox Searchlight Pictures & Lantern Entertainment, PG-13: “This drama centers on a young boy's journey across the U.S./Mexico border to be reunited with his mother.” — Rotten Tomatoes
Aileen Jimenez is manager of Hispanic/Latino leader communications at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tennessee, USA. Originally published August 27,2018.