A Gift Bicultural People Bring

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A gift for you

I’ve been reading Galilean Journey by Virgilio Elizondo, one of the books we recommend for people reaching Latinos. I have really been enjoying it.  It talks a lot about the  Mestizo identity, the mixing of  two pre-existing cultures that when brought together make a new one.  Latinos are a mix of two such cultures.

There is a great paragraph about the way that dominant (or what Elizondo calls parent) cultures of society view such a group that I wanted to share here:

“A mestizo group represents a particularly serious threat to its two parent cultures.  The mestizo does not fit conveniently into the analysis categories used by either group.  The mestizo may understand them far better than they understand him or her.  To be an insider-outsider, as is the mestizo, is to have a closeness to and a distance from both parent cultures. A mestizo people can see and appreciate characteristics in its parent cultures that they see neither in themselves nor in each other.  It is threatening to be in the presence of someone who knows us better than we know ourselves.” p. 18

That last sentence is profound.  It is a threat to feel like someone can see into you in ways that you aren’t even aware of.  It causes anxiety to have a group of people give voice to ways in which your culture needs to change or needs to be redeemed.  As a Latina, I can relate to this.  I can look at the two cultures I have my feet in, and see ways that they are beautiful and broken.  I can tell this feels like a threat at times to both my parent cultures.

But what if instead of shunning this great gift that bicultural people bring to the dominant culture, we embraced it as a part of our own growth?  What a wonderful maturity that would show if we were humble enough to listen to the voices of the bicultural in our midst.  They bring a much-needed perspective to majority culture people, but it is a perspective that is often silenced because it causes too much pain.

I think this as a great opportunity for the church too.  What if within our predominately Anglo churches or para-church organizations, we platformed the minority/bicultural voices and allowed them to speak into how our culture needed to change?  They are in a unique position to see what the dominant culture within the church cannot see in itself.   Instead of doing what society at large typically does ( ignore or silence such people), what if the church displayed a different reaction to this so-called “threat”? I think it could be powerful.

So what about you?  If you are a majority culture person, in what ways can you cultivate humility to hear what bicultural people might be saying?

If you are “Mestizo”,  in what ways do you see your parent cultures needing to change?

photo courtesy: nosheep

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Posted on July 5, 2011

About destinokristy

A Latina, DestinoKristy served with Destino from 2008-2013.

3 Responses to A Gift Bicultural People Bring

  1. Steve says:

    Acknowledging Mestizos may be the hard, first step.  So often we’re forced to choose one group or the other, in part because each community thinks we don’t belong.

    Great post!

  2. Brian Virtue says:

    Great post Kristy!

  3. DestinoKristy says:

    Steve,
    Thanks for posting! I completely agree with you on both parts. Acknowledging Mestizos is a very hard first step for parent cultures. Also, for a Mestizo, living in the tension of both groups can be exhausting. We are all wired with a need to belong, and many bicultural people choose one culture over another in order to finally end that tension. It takes a lot of courage and maturity to stick it out in the middle and not assimilate fully to either group that is pulling at you. I think the better we get at defining the Mestizo identity, the easier it will be for us to stay connected to both parent cultures, yet not swallowed up by either one.