Which did you learn first: the Our Father, or el Padre Nuestro?
If you were raised in a Spanish-speaking household, you were most likely taught to say your prayers in Spanish. And if this was the case, you probably also went to mass en español.
I never liked going to church, but I was forced to wake up early and attend. One Sunday, at the age of 10, I thought I was smart and tried to get out of it. I lied and told my mother I didn’t want to go because I didn’t understand what was being said.
So she took me to an English mass instead.
That was the day I came to appreciate la misa. I sat there in that English mass and felt completely out of place. It was very dark and quiet, with most of the light focused on the priest at the front of the church. I didn’t know most of the prayers, and I didn’t know how to answer during the call-and-response part of the service. The tone of the mass was so serious, so cold. There were people there, but somehow the place felt empty anyway. Everything felt wrong.
I suddenly started missing my usual priest, a very nice gringo who spoke Spanish with a funny accent. I missed seeing familiar faces, and knowing whether to kneel or stand at certain times. And I remember asking myself: where was the live music?
I didn’t know it then, but what I was missing most were my Latinos, and the Latin flavor we give to everything we do. Even if we’re in church, estamos gozando (unless it’s Good Friday, or Holy Saturday). The songs at my church were festive, always accompanied by a guitar, tambourine, and maracas. People would be moving to the beat, clapping their hands, and singing along loudly as they stood in their pews. And at least once per mass we prayed out loud together. We’d raise our hands up to shoulder-height, and hold hands with the person next to us, even if they were strangers. We were unified, not only by our faith, but by our language and our culture. I had no idea that church could be any other way.
After that experience, I told my mother that I preferred going to the Spanish mass instead. She just smiled and nodded, pleased with the outcome of her experiment. Although I’m not a Catholic anymore, I still occasionally need to attend mass for other family members and their religious events. To this day, although English continues to be the language I speak most comfortably, I still prefer a Spanish mass. No matter what church it is, the warmth and love of our community is always there, and that is something I can always appreciate.