Latinos - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. As with the Spanish language, Roman Catholicism dominates throughout Latin America, but varies in form and practice from country to country and region to Region, owing largely to syncretic mixing with other religious traditions. Latinos in the United States also display this variation, with patron saints, special days of observance, and Rituals of baptism, marriage, and death varying among different Catholic Latino groups. For example, the Virgin of Guadalupe, a brown-appearing icon associated with the Indian-Mestizo segment of the population in Mexico, is of Little interest among Cuban Americans and Puerto Ricans, and santeria (worship of African gods clothed in Catholic dogma) beliefs and practices in those groups are far less common among Mexican Americans. Although most Latinos adhere to the Catholic church, evangelical Protestantism has gained many followers in recent decades.

Arts. Folk art traditions in murals, woodwork, music, oral lore, and pottery, as well as modern stylized forms reinterpreting these traditions, characterize a rich artistic cultural element. Afro-Cuban and Puerto Rican percussion instruments and rhythms have effected a new American salsa style of music. Recently an increase in Latino American plays, theater, and cinema has brought a new awareness to the population; particularly important are the sociopolitical content of these works, such as demonstrated by the early Teatro Campesino (Peasant Theater) "actos" (politically charged skits) during the United Farm Worker movement in California.

Medicine. Traditional folk practices continue to vie with Western medicine in many Latino communities, although most Latinos seek medical help for serious injuries or acute illness. Still, one can readily find curanderos (folk healers) who offer old indigenous and syncretized herbal and physical remedies for virtually any ailment.

Death and Afterlife. Latinos generally subscribe to Christian beliefs of an afterlife in which one is rewarded or punished for having led a good or evil life. The significance of death and afterlife is symbolized most clearly in Mexican American celebrations of El Dia de Los Muertos (literally "Day of the Dead," but known as All Saints' Day in English), which feature masks, dolls, and cakes adorned with figures of skulls and skeletons. Funeral rites vary as other syncretized Religious ceremonies do among Latinos, but typically include large gatherings of real and fictive kin.

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