Relationship between Latino and Anglo Congregations

"It is a hard thing to break down and really evaluate because you really want to make a space that is comfortable. For a good majority of the people who go to the Spanish Mass, they don’t speak English." – Brisa (Carleton College Office of International and Intercultural Life)1 

  1. Brisa Zubia, interviewed by Sarah Goldman, March 23, 2014.

The dynamic relationship between the Anglo and Hispanic communities at St. Dominic’s has changed over the past two decades and will continue to develop over time. While some congregants believe the relationship is strained and hope for further integration, others praise the efforts of the Church, and speak optimistically about interactions with other members of the congregation.  All congregants agree that as Latino youth learn English, and more community members become bilingual, integration will become easier.  

Most congregants recognize the language barrier, and express optimism about the future. Brisa, a Hispanic community member, and mentor for international and first generation college students at Carleton College, explains the difficulties that this language barrier creates. 

Norma Espinoza, a Latina Sunday school teacher, and mother of three children, also recognizes the difficulties created by this language barrier, yet expresses optimism about integration in the future, especially during her children’s lifetime:

In the ways that [this integration] has been growing is through our children.  The future will be better because they are learning the language… I can talk with the people who speak Spanish… but because of the language [barrier], with others, I can’t.  I think that in the future, in the future of the little ones, it will be easier.  They will have a better future… because sometimes we are a little bit distanced because of the language.  Because our children are growing up with the same language as them, and the Americans as well [speak Spanish], it [will be] easier to integrate.  I am optimistic about the future.  It was harder for our generation because of the language...  To not understand is hard.  It makes you blind.  It is a terrible frustration...  And sometimes people who haven’t experienced it can’t understand.  It is like you are put in a place in the middle of the world.  You don’t know anything, and you see blindly…  Even though you see the things, you can’t do anything.1 

  1. Norma Espinoza, interviewed by Sarah Goldman, May 9, 2014.

"They are our children.  We are Mexican, we speak Spanish.  And luckily there are some parents that realize that their children don’t speak Spanish.  What shame, what shame.  All the children need to speak both, not one language.  They have to be two people. Their jobs and lives are going to be easier.  What I’ve always said to my children is that I want them to learn how to speak Spanish." - Guillermo Banojas1

  1. Guillermo Banojas, interviewed by Sarah Goldman, May 30, 2014.

However, other community members, such as Guillermo Banojas, worried about the repercussions of such integration (which occurs through programs such as the structured parochial "faith formation" classes). Guillermo is afraid that American culture and English language may overshadow the vibrant the Spanish language and Mexican heritage of the younger generation at St. Dominic’s.   

"Northfield as a community tends to be more progressive… open minded.  Northfield prides itself on being open to the diversity of people who come here." 1 

  1. Brisa Zubia, interviewed by Sarah Goldman, May 23, 2014.

As Father Denny, former priest at St. Dominic's, explains the nuanced complexities in this integration process, he notes the largely welcoming, small-town environment.

Some members of the English speaking community, however, are not as welcoming as Father Denny suggestions.  One elderly member from the English speaking congregation states:

“I don’t understand why there has to be a separate mass for them? Shouldn’t they come to mass with the white community? Why are they here, specifically?”

Father Denny also explains the shortcomings of new technological advances in this acculturation and integration process:

People who moved up here 50 years ago would have had a very different experience… probably would have blended more into the community.  Now everybody can get communication with internet and cell phones…  When I first went down [to Mexico], very few people had cell phones.  The people here went from contacting their families very rarely, to being in constant communication. It is good to keep connected to the home country, [but] it works against broader integration into the community. - Father Denny Dempsey2 

 Norma, however, explains the “covivencia” (coexistence) between the two communities, describing instances of successful integration:

 There are two celebrations that, as we say, are more Hispanic than American. But it is great because the Americans have integrated with us.  They come to mass and participate in the events that we have and eat the food that we cook.  A lot of people are trying to accept us.  I feel like a part of the town, a part of this community.  They say that some years ago, maybe twenty or thirty [years ago], it wasn’t like this… but the church [and the pastor] has insisted very, very, very, very firmly that we are part of one single community, and it doesn’t matter if I don’t speak English because we are of the same religion, we are family. Right? We try to be like a family.3 

  1. Denny Dempsey, interviewed by Sarah Goldman, April 23, 2014.

  2. Norma Espinoza, interviewed by Sarah Goldman, May 9, 2014.