Black Puerto Rican Identity and Religious Experience by Samiri Hernández Hiraldo

By Samiri Hernández Hiraldo

Loiza is a Puerto Rican city recognized for most sensible representing the African traditions, a group of a generally black inhabitants stricken by profound racial discrimination and poverty. yet many Loiza citizens strongly determine themselves in non secular phrases, strategically coping with their person, familial, gender, generational, neighborhood, nationwide, and racial identities via a non secular prism that successfully is helping them deal with and rework their tricky reality.

Based on 365 days of fieldwork, this examine exhibits how believers event their faith in its quite a few dimensions. Writing as a local ethnographer, the writer deals the private spiritual histories of a lot of Loiza’s citizens, a few of whom she follows northward to the USA as they re-create neighborhood and political barriers. Hernández Hiraldo performs the position of player observer, a social scientist with affection for her matters, who shared an important elements in their religious lives together with her. Her narratives show an strangely nuanced realizing of the function of religion within the lives of Loiza’s people.
Arguing that realizing and respecting the facility of faith during this group is vital to addressing and remedying its social difficulties, Hernández Hiraldo contests the characterization of Puerto Rico as a culturally homogenous nation with a monolithic church. She analyzes the altering nature of Catholicism at the island and the demanding situations it faces from the community’s different denominations, particularly the Pentecostal church buildings, lots of that are suffering to maintain their congregations. 

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It took me a while to understand that the use of the phrase “no more witches” is also intended to deemphasize the negative view of Loíza or to emphasize its positives. The phrase was used to describe a change in the Loízans’ view: In the past anything negative or tragic (such as losing a job, a sudden death, or a serious conflict in the family) was usually attributed to witchcraft. However, over the years Loízans have become more aware of the many social causes behind their difficult reality, such as discrimination and a conformist attitude in many of them.

One might expect that these two principles were also part of the religious systems of earlier inhabitants of the island. As I will discuss in chapter 3, the coming of European Spiritism at the end of the nineteenth century brought about a public distinction between folk Spiritism and scientific Spiritism as well as a distinction between Spiritism in general and witchcraft in particular, although these practices have been mixed with Santería and other Afro-Caribbean religious elements. This has happened more openly in the last decades for reasons discussed in the chapters ahead.

Unexpectedly, in my first anthropology courses at the University of Michigan, students were encouraged to consider and criticize the classical view of anthropology as an objective study of the other or a distant subject. 3 This point was confirmed many times during my research when I felt “othered by the other” (using Juan Flores’s expression, 2000: 21–22), when Loízans demanded as many answers to their questions as I demanded answers to mine. By sharing with Loízans the many experiences included in this chapter, I was able to confirm Spickard’s (2002: 240) conclusions that when a researcher reveals herself she is better able to know the research participants.

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