Archives For TIME

There’s much to be puzzled by when it comes to U.S. politics, but for me one of the biggest is the underappreciated the Latino vote.

TIME’s cover recently featured a collage of Latino faces (and a Norwegian-Chinese-Irish one; oops), along with the words: Yo Decido. The cover story, written by Michael Scherer, is “Why Latinos will pick the next President.” He looks at national politics, but focuses his writing on things here in Phoenix. Simply put, Latinos are changing not only this state, but also the face of the country, and they will change its politics. Currently about one sixth of the total population, by 2050 one in three in the U.S. will be Latino. That’s a big piece of the pie.

But Obama, who won in 2008 with two-thirds of the Latino vote, failed to deliver on promises to pass immigration reform during his first year in office, and instead stepped up deportations like never before. The Republicans, meanwhile, are going to great lengths to outdo each other in anti-immigrant rhetoric (without much interest in differentiating between those with documents or without) that sees immigration as a simple problem with simple, if costly and/or strange, solutions. The most creative solution proposed by a one-time leading candidate entailed an electric fence at the border, guarded by alligators; he later called it “a joke.”

While Latinos are not a homogeneous voting bloc, they tend to be young and socially conservative. And immigration is far from the only issue on the table. Latinos have suffered disproportionately during the recession, and while the national unemployment rate holds steady at 8.3% — happily a three-year low — unemployment remains above 10% among Latinos. The economy matters a lot to all of us this time around, but even more so to Latinos.

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, says in the TIME story, “We really look like Republicans on paper, but they don’t want us. The Democrats don’t look like us on paper, but they really want us.”

I blogged about this strange phenomenon last month, quoting Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio as Republicans who seem to get it and are pleading with their party to stop being so irresponsible and foolish. A little respect would go a long way. Sensible policies wouldn’t hurt either.

Though the cover story itself is unfortunately by subscription-only on TIME’s website, they do offer a photo essay with faces and quotes from different Latino voters here, and there’s another photo essay on being Latino in Arizona here. Finally, it’s interesting to note that while Mitt Romney won big in Arizona’s primary, and while he has said he favors “self-deportation” for undocumented immigrants, 63% of Republican voters in this state disagreed (36% thought they should be able to apply for citizenship, and 27% thought they should be allowed to stay as temporary workers). If the numbers are that high in Arizona, they’re certainly higher elsewhere, and if he becomes the nominee he’ll have no choice in the fall but to find a more moderate position. But by then, will he be able to rebuild the bridges he and others in his party have burned?

I’ll have more to say in future posts about civility and citizenship, two themes more timely than ever, but I’ll leave it there for now.

If you’re Latino, what do you plan to do in November?  Has any party or candidate won your vote? What do you wish politicians, or any non-Latinos for that matter, understood?

1. Mayans weigh in on the end of the world
We’ve all heard about the supposed ancient Mayan prediction that the end of the world would come in 2012. Kevin Rushby with the Guardian has an interesting piece taking a look at the Mayans of today, and how rumors of an impending apocalypse have been greatly exaggerated. Rushby focuses largely on the Mayan religious landscape, including a look at the historical roots of their religious syncretism born out of a survival instinct:

The Mayans have had to survive for a long time as underdogs and they have done it by accommodation. When the Spanish came in 1523, plotting total cultural destruction, the indigenous people (Mayan is a catch-all term for several related languages and peoples) responded with guile. Images of Catholic saints were stuffed with old Mayan gods; parts of temples were incorporated into churches; at Nuestra Señora de la Merced in Antigua Guatemala you can see how Mayan masons carved symbols of maize and hummingbirds into the church facade.

2. The rise of Latin America’s economy
Al Jazeera English has a 25-minute feature on Latin America and how it has fared remarkably well in the midst of our current global economic woes. The show touches on mining in Peru and the rise of middle-class consumerism in Brazil. It’s encouraging to see much of the region rising out of poverty, but obviously the situation is not 100% rosy, and it will be interesting to see how these trends shape the region in non-economic terms:

3. Faith/religion trends for 2012
CNN’s Belief blog asked 15 faith leaders to offer their predictions for the coming year. Among them is Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, representing Latinos/Hispanics in the US:

America’s evangelical community will have its hands full addressing both a presidential election and offering a biblical response to “end of days” Mayan prophecies surrounding 2012. With the economy emerging as the primary issue for the November election, America’s born-again community will have an opportunity to contextualize an alternative narrative to the polarizing elements from both the right and the left by reconciling the righteousness message of Billy Graham with the justice platform of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. By offering compassionate, truth-filled solutions and focusing on the message of grace, love, reconciliation and healing, evangelicals will demonstrate that the greatest agenda stems neither from the donkey nor the elephant but rather from the lamb.

4. Churches and the problem with “welcoming the stranger”
The Los Angeles Times has a lengthy feature on one particular Southern Baptist Church in Alabama, which is seeking to navigate the difficult tension between anti-immigrant legislation in the state and its responsibilities as a faith community. The Get Religion blog also has an interesting analysis on the piece’s coverage of the religious angle in the story.

5. Anne Lamott on writing
Legendary writer and memoirist Anne Lamott had an essay in Sunset a couple of years ago (HT Michael Hyatt) with her best tips for writers, including how we use our time:

I’ve heard it said that every day you need half an hour of quiet time for yourself, or your Self, unless you’re incredibly busy and stressed, in which case you need an hour. I promise you, it is there. Fight tooth and nail to find time, to make it. It is our true wealth, this moment, this hour, this day.

6. 95 theses & 140 characters
The Economist has a fascinating take on Martin Luther and how earlier forms of “social media” had a lot to do with the success of the Reformation:

It is a familiar-sounding tale: after decades of simmering discontent a new form of media gives opponents of an authoritarian regime a way to express their views, register their solidarity and co-ordinate their actions. The protesters’ message spreads virally through social networks, making it impossible to suppress and highlighting the extent of public support for revolution. The combination of improved publishing technology and social networks is a catalyst for social change where previous efforts had failed. That’s what happened in the Arab spring. It’s also what happened during the Reformation, nearly 500 years ago, when Martin Luther and his allies took the new media of their day—pamphlets, ballads and woodcuts—and circulated them through social networks to promote their message of religious reform.

Repaso is intended as a thought-provoking compilation of news and commentary from the past week related to the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace. As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of the links and ideas in this roundup!

[Photo credit: Datadirect.com]

I’m always on the look-out for interesting reporting on the intersections of faith and social/economic/cultural/political trends in Latin America, so a headline like this really grabs my attention: God and Profits: How the Catholic Church Is Making A Comeback in Cuba. It’s from Tim Padgett in TIME and it takes a look at the resurgence of the Catholic Church and the looming questions about what role it will play in Cuba’s very uncertain future:

The church is discovering that being the first — and only — alternative institution to the Cuban revolution is both a blessing and a curse. As President Raúl Castro, who took over for his ailing older brother Fidel in 2008, tries to engineer politically perilous economic reforms in his severely cash-strapped nation, he seems to have decided the church is the only noncommunist entity he can trust to aid those transitions without seriously challenging his rule. Speaking to the National Assembly in August, Raúl even offered a mea culpa for decades of blacklisting “Cubans with religious beliefs.”

Some accuse the Church leadership of turning a blind eye to the Castros’ human rights abuses, while others just say it’s moving too slowly. Padgett makes a good point about tempering perhaps impossibly lofty expectations: the Catholic Church in Cuba wasn’t particularly strong even before the revolution in 1959, at which point Fidel Castro declared Cuba atheist, so any change in the country led by the Church will take some time. The fact that it exists as the “only alternative institution to the Cuban revolution” is itself an accomplishment.

But Cuba is changing. Raúl Castro has begun easing economic restrictions and entrepreneurs are finally enjoying some breathing room. Most recently, the sales of cars are finally allowed. Additionally, Padgett reports that a large international Catholic charity stands by, ready to do its part if the decades-long feud between Cuba and the US doesn’t stop it:

Caritas hopes to launch a micro-loan project to help Cubans grow beyond timbiriches — tiny informal businesses, like vendors of homemade sweets, that the Castros have allowed since the 1990s — to enterprises that can absorb the almost 20% of the state workforce facing layoffs. If Havana and Washington permit it, nonprofit groups in the U.S. and Europe tell TIME they’re set to channel tens of millions of dollars to Caritas for a micro-loan fund. “My last hope is the church,” says Roque, a thin, middle-aged former Cuban soldier who was among the throng welcoming Our Lady of Charity to Havana in September. “They help with extra food and are sending me to computer lessons.”

I hope Caritas will be allowed to do its work and that the Cuban government continues to ease restrictions in general. For its part, I hope the US does away with the embargo. And I hope and pray that the rising evangelical church in Cuba becomes a full participant in the making of a more just, more joyful future for all Cubans.