Document 35: Excerpts from Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz and Yolanda Tarango, Hispanic Women: Prophetic Voice in the Church (New York: Harper and Row, 1992), pp. ix-x, xiii, xvii.
This document is excerpted from the prologue to a book about "Hispanic Women's Liberation Theology," first published by the theologians Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz and Yolanda Tarango in 1988. In it they described their unique perspectives as Hispanic women (a category they insisted is very diverse), their criticism of Catholic sexism, their approach to feminism, and their relationship to Latin American liberation theology. Their writing represented a challenge not only to the field of theology, but also to the feminist movement. As a longtime activist (and one of the first grassroots organizers for the Women's Ordination Conference), Isasi-Diaz was well aware that the majority of mainstream feminists failed to include the experiences of minority women in a comprehensive feminist ideology. In highlighting the perspectives of Hispanic women at the end of the decade, Isasi-Diaz and Tarango continued to push the church--and the feminist movement--toward justice.
First and foremost we are activists — Hispanic Women committed to the struggle for justice and peace. Our lived experience has pointed us in the direction of being theologians. We see no conflict in being both theologians and activists; this follows our understanding of the intrinsic unity between what has been classically referred to as systematic theology and moral theology or ethics. This will become obvious as we clarify what it means for us to do theology.
Doing theology is a communal process. We do theology because of, for, and with other Hispanic Women with whom we participate in the struggle for liberation. Those with whom we engage in the struggle are our primary community of accountability. Therefore, the Hispanic Women's Liberation Theology we begin to elaborate in this book has to be clear to them, make sense to them, be valid for them. This is one of the reasons why we are including a synopsis of each chapter in Spanish. Hispanic Women's Liberation Theology also has to make sense to others who stand in solidarity with our struggle for liberation.
As feminists we often have been asked why we bother with religion, why we put our energies and gifts into struggling with church officials, into doing theology. We do it for several important reasons:
- A significant piece of our becoming the best possible selves we can be — which we think is what life is all about — is intrinsically
- linked to religion. Thus we work always toward a greater understanding of what we believe, why we believe it, and how it affects who we are/what we do.
- As Hispanics, religion — specifically Roman Catholicism — is a very significant element of our culture. As Hispanic Women we have been very hurt by the Catholic church in a number of ways — and this does not refer only to hurt feelings. Many of us even have walked away from the Catholic church and other Christian churches. Yet, as a group of us told a U.S. Bishops' Committee, "We cannot leave the Church. It is part of our culture, of who we are!"
- For Hispanics the church has provided not only our religious frameworks but also the main paradigms for our "moods and motivations" in life.
- As Hispanic feminists struggling for liberation, we believe the church plays a powerful role in our oppression. The church sanctions — justifies — the patriarchy in society by being itself a patriarchal structure. If the church is holy and patriarchal, is not patriarchy holy? If the church were to denounce patriarchy, it would be an important moment in the process of the liberation of women. For this reason, as Roman Catholics, we must continue to call the Catholic church to repent of the sexism inherent in its structures and in some of its tenets.
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The cultural or Hispanic perspective contributes to Hispanic Women's Liberation Theology the claim that Hispanic culture is valuable and has significant contributions to make (other than its music, food, and dress!) to what is normative in this society, in the church. Hispanic Women's Liberation Theology emphasizes the importance of the African and Amerindian strands in the culture. It insists especially on the important role these two strands play in the religiosity of the people. This insistence critiques the racism/ethnic prejudice to which feminism in the United States and Latin American Liberation Theology seem to be prone. Both have failed to take into consideration the experiences and understandings of racial/ethnic persons. At best, feminism in the United States and Latin American Liberation Theology have attempted to adapt and incorporate into their movements the racial/ethnic understandings that they consider important. However, neither of them have been willing to accept the contributions of racial/ethnic persons as intrinsic elements of their theologies.
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Finally, we want to identify some of the basic presuppositions that ground our lives and, therefore, our praxis. These presuppositions will help explain some of what is being said in this book.
- When in doubt, we act, for if we do not, possibilities will never unfold.
- Risk is part of life, so we do not try to avoid it. We may be afraid, but not paralyzed.
- Divine revelation is always happening in the community and through the community.
- Our goal, our hope, is the creation of the community of struggle: that is what the "kin-dom" of God is all about. The common good of the community is one of our main preoccupations, a common good that cannot fall under ideological control and is always being understood anew.
- Leadership belongs to the community, and to hold accountable those whom the community appoints to exercise it is both the right and obligation of the community. As "theological technicians" we, the authors of this book, offer leadership to the doing of theology in which the community engages.
- Joy is an intrinsic part of the work for justice and peace. Joy is an expression of hope, which gives a most important spark to our struggle. As a joyful community we express our belief in the presence of the divine among us and in us, a presence that pushes us on because, in our being fulfilled, divinity is fully revealed.
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