Latina Feminist Theology – Responding to Daisy Machado

Panel and Conversation on A Reader In Latina Feminist Theology

Let me first thank Union, Su Pak and Maria Marta for giving us the opportunity to have this panel discussion and for the great privilege to have Daisy Machado with us this afternoon. Let me start by saying a few words about my work as a way to enter into the four questions I framed to ask you Daisy. For almost 5 years, I worked with a non-documented Portuguese speaking community in Massachusetts. For almost 5 years we witnessed the displacement, uneasiness, frustration, limitations, pain, fear and longing of this community which struggled daily to find a better life in this country, and the financial burden of supporting as many as four other families back home. Coming from this experience, I see the Latina feminist theology as a powerful tool that can revamp the stories, the souls, minds, spirits and the bodies of this and many other communities of immigrant, foreign-citizen and citizen-foreign people. During my work as a minister in this place, I knew how to work but I didn’t know how to frame it, how to give words to the excess of “flesh, blood and pain” which I encountered daily in this ministry. What I see is that this book is a translation of the life of many people and specifically in your article, Elena’s Story, I see the story of so many women with whom I lived and wept together. Considering my experience, other readings and this book, I would like to ask you a few questions that might appear superficially to be tangential points but for me they touch the heart of some of the issues that Latina Feminist theology encompasses. Here they are:

1) First, given the present situation in which the Latinas/os do not speak much outside of their boundaries, how do we modulate the tone of our voices when we have to speak? Or better said, why do we scream every time we talk? It seems to me that every time we speak we scream without knowing it. Is it because we don’t know how to control the tone of our voices, is it because we think people are not hearing us properly or is it because in order to have our voices heard, even by ourselves, we must place our fractured being in our vocal cords? As an example, I remember when you were here at Union last year at the Bonhoeffer conference. After your spoke, you were exhausted. So was I in the audience. At that time, you didn’t have a lecture for us, you were the lecture. The transcript was not the notes you had in front of you but yourself, your body, your soul, your hands, the modulation of your voice and the fast rhythm of your heartbeat. We all know the pain of immigrant communities and there are many spaces available that allow us to ventilate the stories of our lives and the stories we carry within us. We end up carrying a heavy heart in search of a larger community, trying to speak and understand properly… Then my question for you is: how do we modulate the tone of our voice and get our message across?

2) My second question is about multiculturalism. How does the Latina feminist theology place itself within the debate of multiculturalism? I am suspicious of it. On the one hand it seems that the term multiculturalism was a white liberal term that tried to accommodate differences together, a nice concession from the hegemonic forces of the monolithic culture and the savage capitalism of our days, a sophisticated term to replace the famous melting pot that wanted to blend cultures by ways of assimilation, with is

homogenization and neutralization. On the other hand, it has opened up spaces for minorities to raise important issues and questions for discussion, confrontation and dialogue. From a theological perspective, do you see multiculturalism as a way of erasing the borders, of blending/erasing differences into the univocal body of Christ, fading away identities in order to let the identity of the Colonizer be better assimilated? Do you see multiculturalism as a category to be employed in our theological task? Would the terms intercultural and transnational be more appropriate to foster dialogue and enhance equality?

3) My third question is: How do we go beyond the atomization of our differences? On the one hand, the discourses of identities offer spaces to reclaim ourselves, to expand our vocabularies, to have our voices heard, to develop ways of knowing and to construct our history and our settings, always in relation, and empower us to imagine and recreate ourselves. On the other hand, the multiplicity of our discourses can set us apart, with independent agendas can take away our common strength. So, my question is: how do we get together with our differences in a common project within and beyond our differences? Do you see it as desirable, as needed, as unavoidable? If this is the case, how do we go beyond the atomization of our differences and discourses towards a common struggle without losing the crucial markers that distinguish us from one another?

4) My fourth question considers the issue of historical imagination in two sides:  1) Considering the Latina/o Protestant churches, how do you see the role of theological education in training ministers for our churches and in shaping our historical imagination? 2) How do we create agency to work on our historical imagination? Guillermo Gomez-Pena has done a great work on the theme of “border-crosser” through artistic performances. What are the tools and assets you see available today within the existing cultures, in this between-ness location, that we can use to work and rework our historical imagination?

To conclude, when I think about the relation between the conquerer and the conquered, the colonizer and colonized, I have the impression that we are like dogs, always eating the crumbs of Jesus’ table like the women in the parable. If we are to follow this impression, I would say that

* Americanos are the truth, we are a perspective;

* Americanos have the highest level of Christian forms of expression and worship; we are the popular, eccentric, under-trained, the lesser and not yet developed forms of Christian liturgical and theological expressions;

* Americanos are the mirror and we are the concave and hollow reflexive images;

* Americanos are the mind and we are the body. Jennifer Lopez is hot;

* Americanos are 4th of July, we are… we are?

* Americanos are citizens, we are forever “aliens”. By the way, the dictionary defines alien as extra-territorial, space creatures, from another world. Isn’t that interesting that I carry with me an ID that says that I am an ALLIEN in this country?

* Americanos pay income taxes, have real social security cards and will get their retirement. We also pay income taxes, but have fake social security numbers and will never get our retirement plans;

* Americanos are pure and clean, we are polluted and dirty;

* Americanos are right on time, we are always late;

* Americanos are money, we are producers of their money;

* Americanos are all about pride, and we… canada pharmacy-generic viagra online-cheap cialis  we are pure longing.

However, even though it is all true to me, I refuse to take the perspective of the victims as a way of breaking down the binary oppressed/oppressor. As Guillermo Gomez Pena says: “We are holders of a strong spiritual vision, not emerging voices, full citizens not exotic minorities.” We are and will be subjects of our own her/history. Without apologies or need for concessions. In this “in between-ness”, this book, I am sure, will help us to accomplish that. Thank you for your great work Professor Machado.