A Spanish-speaking mission field has been brought to our doorstep by the economic pressures of our generation. Although statistics are shaky and definitions uncertain, it seems safe to say that Spanish is now our country’s second language, and about five million Stateside residents, both foreign and domestic, can be claimed for the Latin American community. Of these, 2,316,671 were born in Latin America. Also resident in the United States are some 849,000 Puerto Rican-born citizens. And to the above must be added their American-born, Spanish-speaking children, plus 300,000 to 400,000 migratory workers, transients, “braceros,” and “wetbacks.”
Although they are to be found in every state of the nation, Latin Americans have arrived primarily across the Mexican border and through Miami and New York. In these areas they are concentrated. They range from the doctors and lawyers in exile from Castro’s Cuba to the Mexican laborers who “commute” into the United States each day to go to work.
These millions, more often than not, have come to our shores wide open to spiritual help and evangelism, having left behind their nominal religious traditions. They are ready—if not eager—for spiritual orientation “a la americana.” According to one poll, cited by John H. Burma of Duke University, about half the Puerto Ricans in New York said that they rarely, if ever, attended church any more. There is an undisputed tendency to allow the old religion to fall into disuse along with the old culture. Thus, while there are less than a dozen Roman Catholic churches ministering to the Spanish-speaking in New York (and more frequented by Spaniards than by Latin Americans!), there are an estimated 427 Protestant churches with Spanish-language services. ...1
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