November 25, 2013
THE MEXICAN AMERICANS OF SOUTH TEXAS
According to Webster’s dictionary religion is defined as “a belief and worship of God or gods; a specific system of belief, worship, etc. often involving a code of ethics.” Religion is important to Mexican Americans. “The majority of Mexican Americans are Catholic but their interpretations of Catholicism vary with class and education.” Religion played a part in moral, ethical and political decisions of various groups and societies. The Mexican Americans of South Texas were Catholic. Most believed in the Spanish Indian beliefs but were despaired of the priests. The priests were respected by the people and were well educated but didn’t understand everything. Women followed the priest and respected the priest more than men did. Men had more of a status in order to attend, thanking the church and giving back because of it. Praying to shrines brought success and gifts their followers and businesses, if they listened and gave offerings. The Mexicans also pray to different shrines for help and to find jobs, pay bills, protect travels, and passing school courses. Some who didn’t believe in the Catholic religion were called Protestants and believed there are only saints or sinners. Catholicism that is practiced by the Mexican Americans of South Texas is not that different from the rest of the United States. Weddings, baptisms, and funerals are part of the practices of the Catholic church. Most Mexican American homes contained a family altar and were adorned with some sort of Catholic fixtures. My ethnographer states that she noticed holy images, photographs, flowers, candles and incense. The priest gets a lot of respect from the community. He is referred to as, “Father.” There is music played in the church, as well as, social gatherings. The church is a place of worship and it retains tradition for the Mexican Americans of Texas. They may not attend church on a regular basis but they rely on church for morals, ethics, political, and social guidance. Catholicism practiced by the Mexican American of Texas did not differ widely from other Catholics in the United States. Although the Mexican Americans of Texas are definitely United States citizens, they have maintained the religion of their ancestors. They continue to practice the Catholic religion which was passed on from generation, deriving their time in Mexico. The Catholic religion is practiced by many Americans and there is not much difference in the practices and beliefs of those who are members of the Catholic religion. The only way I can thoroughly compare the religion of the Mexican-Americans of South Texas to contemporary U.S. culture, is to compare Catholicism, which is one of the five major religions, to the other four major religions of the world, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam, that are practiced in the United States. “The story of Buddhism begins with Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, born during the sixth century BCE in what is now known as Nepal.” Buddhism deals with how to end suffering. It states that to end suffering one must learn to do away with desires. Buddhists believe that if you learn to do away with your desires then you can achieve Nirvana. Nirvana is the removal of desires. Some feel that Buddhism is more of a way of life, than a religion. Hinduism states that to reach the highest point in life is to reach Nirvana. Nirvana is a state of being perfect. They believe that people are born into certain caste systems and reincarnation. The caste that you are born into is dependent on how you have lived past lives. If you have lived a good past life then when you are reincarnated, you will be born into a higher caste. The higher you go in the caste system the closer you are to reaching Nirvana. Muslims practice the religion of Islam. They believe and follow the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims live by the principles of the Holy Koran and follow the Five Pillars of Islam. The belief of one God, praying five times per day, paying of alms, fasting, and the pilgrimage to Mecca are the Five Pillars of Islam. Judaism pulls a lot of its teaching from the Bible. They believe in the ten commandments as taught by the Holy Bible. The Jewish people hold on to tradition and practice rituals, such as, feet washing and giving special attention to religious holidays. These religions are all different in their specific rituals and beliefs. They all maintain a level of respect, community and morals. The way the Mexican Americans of South Texas worship is no all that different from other Catholics in the United States. The difference is how Catholicism compares to other religions and the separation of wealth and education.