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La misa

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.

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


  1. I agree with you a lot! I consider myself a very traditional yet liberal person. Personally, for me, my types of “misas” are the ones where the Priest chants the gospels and everything and where they play the organ to the ancient Gregorian hymns. Oh and the incense too! Other than that, I like the misas in Spanish because they are lively while the ones in plain English (Novus Ordo, Vatican II) just have no substance in them. Ritual helps me connect closer to the divine. I dont consider myself 100% Catholic but I appreciate the spirituality of my culture. Once you realize what’s going on, you start to appreciate everything a little more. Of course, the masses are barely in their ancient forms anymore, but as long as the ancient traditions are kept, I have no problem. Often, I went to masses in which the priests yells, shouts, and has the congregants clap and shout AMEN. It’s a little creepy because I like the quiet, reflective misas.

    Many Hispanics are also turning toward Orthodox Christianity since it preserves many ancient practices that have been lost in the R.C church..especially since Vatican II.

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