Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The myth of Hispanic family values

Everyone knows that Hispanics place a high value on family. However, no one goes on to explain what that means. Some Hispanic immigrants value “family” so much that they have two; one in the States and one back home. Perhaps family values explain why nearly 50% of all children born to Hispanic mothers in the U.S. are born out of wedlock.

The myth is so strong that facts will not shake it. I was sitting with a group of Anglo and African American ministers in a class about the role of ethnicity in ministry. When I challenged the statement that Hispanics place family above everything, they looked at me like I had challenged the Virgin Birth. They refused to believe me. What could a Cuban-born pastor of a Hispanic church in New Orleans know about Hispanic families?

It is extremely troubling that ministers (especially Hispanic ones) have bought into this. They myth leads churches to ignore the fact that a great number of Hispanic families are dysfunctional. I was a pastor in a predominately Hispanic area (77%) north of Chicago. There were ministries for crisis pregnancy, teen mom support groups, court mandated parenting classes and gang prevention whose clients were almost all Hispanic. They were all run by Anglo churches.

It wasn’t because the Hispanic churches were not capable. There were 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants in the community; there were doctors, lawyers, teachers, politicians and wealthy businessmen. Perhaps perpetuating the myth that Hispanics value family more than Anglos do requires that we Hispanics shun the divorced, hide the teen moms and never speak about child abuse or domestic violence.

The Spanish-language ministry of Baptist Temple is reaching out to single moms and blended families. We don’t expect a lot of competition from other churches. This is unfortunate because dysfunctional Hispanic families need support and the peace that only Jesus can provide.

1 comment:

Cynthia Fuller said...

Being raised in San Antonio and being hispanic, I've run into constantly the "blood is thicker than water" notion, and have seen its ill effects on families. Usually accompanied by a domineering father and an obediant mother, I've seen the dysfunction that this causes. Usually the family, which can never be wrong, are the first to tear a member down. So, the myth that family is upheld by hispanics, may have been true in the past but in my young years I've seen it more as a trap for the young. Because, as I've said before, they are taught family is never wrong and therefore will never choose anything that is against the family, leading to a path of destruction. I sometimes equate it to that of an abusive relationship. You can't leave them, nor can you choose against them, but they are always the first to tear you down. If folks are still believing that hispanics value family above all else, they must see that the value, maybe once there, has gone the same direction as our once vibrant economy. It is truly my hope that God can instill that value once again even if just one family at a time.