Thursday, December 10, 2009

Jesús in Latin America

December 10, 1968, Thomas Merton, Trappist monk, spiritual writer, companion of peacemakers and justice seekers, died. His work has been an inspiration for me since I read his autobiography Seven Storey Mountain during high school.

I think the following quote is quite appropriate today, especially in light of US policy toward Honduras.
If only North Americans had realized . . . that Latin Americans really existed. That they were really people. That they spoke a different language. That they had a culture. That they had more than something to sell! Money has totally corrupted the brotherhood that should have united all the peoples of America. It has destroyed the sense of relationship, the spiritual community that had already begun to flourish in the years of Bolivar. But no! Most North Americans still don’t know, and don’t care, that Brazil speaks a language other than Spanish, that all Latin Americans do not live for the siesta, that all do not spend their days and nights playing the guitar and making love. They have never awakened to the fact that Latin America is by and large culturally superior to the United States, not only on the level of the wealthy minority which has absorbed more of the sophistication of Europe, but also among the desperately poor indigenous cultures, some of which are rooted in a past that has never yet been surpassed on this continent.

So the tourist drinks tequila, and thinks it is no good, and waits for the fiesta he has been told to wait for. How should he realize that the Indian who walks down the street with half a house on his head and a hole in his pants, is Christ? All the tourist thinks is that it is odd for so many Indians to be called Jesús.
Thomas Merton,
“A Letter to Pablo Antonio Cuadra Concerning Giants”
in Emblems of a Season of Fury
I include this quote in materials I give to folks visiting here, though most of my visitors aren't the tequila-drinking tourists. The message that the US is not superior to Latin America, though, can be quite disturbing. And meeting Jesús can evoke conversion.


By the way, in some Latin American countries Jesús is used as a name for both men and women. In El Salvador, Jesús is sometimes shortened to Chus for men and Chusa for women.

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