Mounting research indicates that Latino Pentecostals lead the expansion of Latino Protestantism in the United States. Only a handful of studies move beyond cursory analyses of Latino Pentecostals’ history and influence. Gaston Espinosa’s work amply responds to these trends, arguing that Latino Pentecostals have overcome ethnic and religious inequalities to achieve institutional legitimacy and far-reaching social influence. Focusing primarily on the Assemblies of God (AG), the denomination second only to the Catholic church in Latino membership, Espinosa chronicles the early twentieth century emergence and coming of age of a nearly self-sufficient Latino AG movement. The US-Mexico borderlands, Puerto Rico, and subsequent diasporic destinations provide the historical backdrop for the mostly Mexican and Puerto Rican origin Pentecostals populating the volume. Espinosa privileges the accounts of Latinos and links Latino Pentecostalism’s religious lineage to African American preacher William Seymour, the figurehead of the Azusa St. Revival. Testimonials of the miraculous are regularly featured as explanans of the movement’s expansion in keeping with Espinosa’s stated ethnophenomenological approach. Based on distinct methodological approaches and thematic emphases, the book divides into three sections: Latino Pentecostal pioneers (chapters 1–9), women in the Latino AG (chapter 10), and Latino Pentecostal social and political impact (chapters 11–12). Drawing from interviews and archival research, Espinosa elucidates the role of Latinos in the early expansion of U.S. Pentecostalism from the 1906 Azusa Street Revival onward. Mexican and Puerto Rican Pentecostal neophytes adeptly transmitted the Pentecostal message, capitalizing on Latino migratory patterns and sporadically venturing into unknown regions. Shifting focus between ethnic Mexican and ethnic Puerto Rican Pentecostals, Espinosa highlights novel connections between these two populations. For example, Mexican preacher Francisco Olazabal worked among Puerto Ricans on the island, in California, and in New York City, and Puerto Rican preacher Juan Lugo reached out to Mexicans in Los Angeles. The volume denotes Latino Pentecostalism’s rootedness in local ethnic communities and its successes and challenges in generating an incipient panethnicity. The ethnic character of early Latino Pentecostalism provided a competitive edge in the religious economies of yesteryear. Catholicism, Mainline Protestantism, and popular spiritualities counted defectors among the ranks of Latino Pentecostalism. Latinos’ struggles for self-determination in the AG significantly shaped the movement. Latino leaders consistently contended against the paternalism of white denominational leaders. Indeed, various independent Latino Pentecostal movements, such as CLADIC and IDDPMI, disassociated from the AG given these constraints. Espinosa problematizes historical portrayals of H.C. Ball, the denominational leader traditionally credited with establishing the Latino AG. While Espinosa concedes that Ball’s involvement was critical to the movement, he argues that Ball’s impact was ultimately contingent on Latino Pentecostal leaders. Latinos eventually were allowed to form their own coethnic “districts,” semi-autonomous regional bodies affiliated with and accountable to the denomination. Chapter 10 explores the contribution of women to Latino Pentecostalism, noting female innovators in the movement and the freedoms and constraints women currently experience. On the one hand, the Latino AG has licensed and ordained Latinas for ministry at higher rates than other denominations. On the other hand, many ordained women fulfill ministerial roles alongside ordained husbands. Drawing from interviews and survey data, Espinosa indicates that Latina Pentecostals overwhelmingly view feminism as conflicting with their conservative values. Save for Alice Luce, a white AG leader instrumental in founding Latino serving institutions, women receive noticeably less attention than men in preceding chapters. Chapters 11 and 12 explore Latino Pentecostal social and political engagement. Espinosa indicates Latino Pentecostals vote as moderates while maintaining conservative stances on same sex marriage and abortion. The lion’s share of Latino Pentecostal voters has alternated between Republican and Democratic presidential candidates at different elections. Beyond voting, Espinosa explores Latino Pentecostal influences on past civil rights leaders such as Cesar Chavez and Reies Lopez Tijerina, and current Latino AG leaders influencing national politics. A discrepancy emerges in the juxtaposition of the populist activism of previous Latino leaders alongside the moderate and conservative politics of current high profile Latino AG leaders. With young Latinos of faith at a crossroads within the current political climate, a more extensive intervention into this particular gap would complement Espinosa’s concern for how younger Latinos find welcome and empowerment in Pentecostalism today. This volume offers a wealth of material for sociologically minded scholars of religion. Pentecostalism scholars will encounter unique perspectives on Pentecostalism’s origins and Latino Pentecostalism’s place as a homegrown movement. Scholars of race and religion might be drawn to how the relationships between whites and Latinos have influenced the boundaries of U.S. Latino Pentecostalism. Likewise, Espinosa provides substantial fodder for timely discussions about the gendering of Latino Pentecostalism and the political engagement of Latino Pentecostals. Overall, this book is an impressively researched resource for those interested in the rise of one of the United States’s most dynamic religious movements. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Association for the Sociology of Religion. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
Sociology of Religion – Oxford University Press
Published: Apr 3, 2018
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