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.
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