Puerto Rican Cultural and Religion


I am a member of the Puerto Rican American Families research team. I
myself grew up in a Puerto Rican American, or "New Yorican", family. The
assignment is a field study. The study is on an observation of the religious
community. We visited a Roman Catholic church in Buffalo on the west side,
which is a predominantly Hispanic area of the city. I myself am also a Roman
Catholic. This is a slightly erred site, because I believe that most Puerto
Ricans migrated to New York City. However, we were able to make some
interesting observations. The group attended mass at Holy Cross; both an
English and Spanish mass. It seemed that the group accepted our presence
without any apprehension, however, as I stated before, this probably is a result
of I myself being Puerto Rican American. There were some striking differences
between the English mass and the Spanish mass.
The first noticeable difference was in attendance. The Spanish mass had
a considerable higher attendance than did the English mass. Also the appearance
of the manner of dress. The attendees of the Spanish mass were more formally
dressed than those of the English mass. Another major difference was in the
music. The English mass had the "traditional" European "angelica" type singing.
The Spanish mass, however, had more upbeat music, along with the use of
"traditionally" Carribean instruments like maracas, for example.
What does this suggest about the religious community of Puerto Rican
Americans? I think that it is a balance between assimilation and preserving the
culture. I think it is obvious that Roman Catholicism was not the native
religion of Borinquen. Borinquen was the name of the island Puerto Rico
before the conquest of the Spanish. So since they had already been forced to
assimilate their culture into European culture by the Columbians, they found
they could easily assimilate into American culture more readily than other
cultures. However, we find in the Spanish mass, the use of Carribean
instruments. This suggests an effort by the religious community to maintain the
Puerto Rican culture.
I personally have experienced the efforts to maintain Puerto Rican
culture in the form of Santeria. Santeria is a religion practiced by, I guess,
many Puerto Rican Americans. It is practiced in the homes of Puerto Rican
Americans when they are not in church. It is a mixture of their old native
religion from pre-Columbian Borinquen with Roman Catholicism. It is basically
the incorporation of the Roman Catholic saints with a form of vodoun. From my
experience, in Santeria prayers and offerings are given to the saints for
protection from evil. There are many elaborate rituals performed by the
followers of Santeria. Most of the rituals include prayers from Roman
Catholicism, like the Rosary and the Hail Mary. I think Santeria is the perfect
example of the balance being maintained by the religious community between
assimilation and preservation.

Category: Social Issues