Wherever Church leaders in the USA have Latin/a communities near them must read Robert Chao Romero’s new book, Brown Church. Why? Because most of us don’t know anything about the history and formation and distinctiveness of the Brown church witness to the gospel.

Notice Romero’s own background from his DNA test:

I am La Raza Cosmica. I am Chinese (43.5%); Native American (18.9%); Manchurian and Mongolian (2.1%); Siberian (.4%); broadly Chinese and Southeast Asian (5.8%); broadly Northern Asian and Native American (1.9%); broadly East Asian and Native American (.8%); Iberian (14%); broadly Southern European (6.1%); broadly European (.6%); Con-golese (.5%); Senegambian & Guinean (2%); Nigerian (.1%); broadly West African (.3%); broadly Sub-Saharan African (.2%); South Asian (.3%); North African & Arabian (.1%); broadly Western Asian & North African (.3%); and unassigned (4%). I am blessed to have the blood of most of the cultural family groups of the world – Asian, Native American,European, African, and Middle Eastern – coursing through my veins.

Well, that’s the Abrahamic promise fulfilled in one man! He embodies the diversity of Mexico.

Knowing this history, and how my genes corroborate this history, makes me feel betrayed. I feel like I have been lied to my whole life. I know now that my family’s obsession with whiteness reflects the values of the three-hundred-year-old colonial caste system that idolized “Spanish” racial identity. As part of this racial hierarchy, those deemed “Spanish” reigned supreme and received special socioeconomic, political,and religious benefits and privileges; those racially categorized as “Indian” and “African" were at the bottom; and the castas, or mixed race individuals of Spanish and indigenous ancestry (mestizos) or Spanish and African heritage (mulatos) occupied an intermediary racial status and lived their lives on the edges of the Spanish world. In fact, the Spanish created an insidious system of 14 to 20 official categories of racial mixture. Other categories included Castizo (light-skinned mestizo); Morisco (light-skinned mulato); Zambo (Black-Indian); ahí te estás (there you are); and tente en el aire (hold yourself suspended in mid-air). These categories were fluid, depending on phenotype and wealth, and some passed into the Spanish realm by gaining wealth, becoming a priest, or being appointed to a high governmental posts. In such cases, racial standing was raised to the level of “Spaniard” - sometimes through the of certificates called limpieza de sangre (blood cleansing) or petitions of gracias al sacar (dispensation).

This kind of colonialism and imperialism, tied as it was to the church’s teachings and power, denied the gospel mandate to bring all to the Table of Jesus.

According to their twisted, unbiblical logic, those from Spain possessed a monopoly on Jesus and cultural civility, and in order to become his follower, one had to first become a Spaniard. They confused and conflated Spanish culture with Christianity and thereby idolized themselves. This idolization of Spanish culture and identity is blasphemy, and continues to pervade Latin American and US Latina/o media, society, and even churches, to the present day.

The genius of this 3d chp in Romero’s book is his sketch of three vital figures in the history of multicultural Brown gospel theology. “Following the important footsteps of Montesinos and Las Casas in the sixteenth century, Garcilaso de la Vega el Inca (mestizo), Guaman Poma de Ayala (indigenous), and Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (Spanish/mestiza) struggled for racial and gender equality and laid the second layer of foundation of the Brown Church in the seventeenth century.”

Put differently, what many today think was discovered in the wake of modern liberation theologians was already at work in the Brown Church from the 16th Century onwards! What many think of today as “wokeness” is nothing new to the Brown Church.

It is a shame that not enough of us know this story.

This chp looks at these three people, and you’ll have to read the chp to get the details. I will provide a very very brief summary to the courageous life and witness of each.

Garcilaso de la Vega el Inca (mestizo): this man deconstructed the narrative told by the Spanish Conquest and crreated (as a mestizo) a theological legitimation of mestizo life and culture and bodies, and thus reconstructed an alternative narrative. He put on the table the indigenous Inca culture and story and theology.

He stands uniquely as the first mestizo historian and intellectual of the Brown Church. It is significant to note that though he condemned the cruelties of the Spanish conquest, he did not give up on Jesus. Rather, he saw through the colonial misrepresentations of Christi-anity and still encountered Christ. Moreover, he was. ableto disassociate the misrepresentations of colonialism from other Spaniards who “were more moderate and regardful of the honor. ofGod and the expansion of the holy Catholic faith.”

Guaman Poma de Ayala (indigenous): he was a critic of imperialism and so protested injustices against the indigenous population of Peru. From the Bible and the Catholic tradition, he advocated for indigenous autonomy and Christian self-government. A powerful prophet of the Brown Church who protested imperial, Christian injustices against the people.

Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (Spanish/mestiza): the Brown Church’s First Feminist Theologian! She’s from the 17th Century. Learned from her mother. Sor Juana had the passion for learning, study, Bible, theology, poetry, and all the sciences. She was a “renaissance” type thinker. She could not get enough of study. Decided to be a nun in order to fulfill her God-giftedness.

Big issue, of course: the male Christian establishment fought her, opposed her. She played their game and held her own. She defended her gifts, her writing, her multidisciplinarity, and she defended the feminist voice. She, in the end (and sadly), collapsed under the weight of opposition and issued a “public statement of repentance” and withdrew into the monastery.

She died at 45 yrs old.

Her writings and voice was suppressed until 1952!