The Withered Fig Tree, the Fruit of Righteousness – Rev. Dr. Javier Alanis

Rev. Dr. Javier Alanis has a special message for the first post of Latinx History Month – one grounded in his own family. Preached in chapel Mexican Independence Day (September 16, 1810), Prof. Alanis’ sermon delves into the richness of Latinx identity and what his family’s story has to say to the the story of Jesus and the fig tree. So enjoy his word, share with friends, and ¡benvenidos!

Francisco Herrera – PhD student, Interim Editor

¡Viva Mexico! 

¡Viva Mexico! 

Today is the celebration of Mexico’s Independence from Spain, a great way to kick off Hispanic History Month!  My compliments to the worship committee Y GRACIAS for inviting me to deliver today’s message.  Latinx History Month is a more inclusive term and one that I welcome even though it’s not a perfect descriptor for this month’s celebration.   So, indulge me if you will with a teaching moment.  

Back in 2000 I returned to Austin to begin teaching at LSPS.  I had just finished my doctoral exams and I had not yet started to write my dissertation.  I was invited to speak at a forum at my church on a Saturday morning with the Latinx parishioners at the church.   As I was speaking, I referred to the gathered community as Hispanic.  A parishioner raised her hand and respectfully said, “Pastor, I am not Hispanic, I am Guatemalan!  Ouch!   She taught me something that has stayed with me ever since. 

Never assume a person is Hispanic just because you know her as “Maria!” 

The term “Hispanic” was imposed on Spanish-speaking peoples by the U.S. government back at the 1970 census in order to count us and keep tabs on us!   So, I want to share with you two lessons that I have learned over the years: 

1. Never assume that someone is “Hispanic”; and…  

2. Always ask folks to self-identify so that you may learn how a people claim their own history and their own IDENTITY.   

As my colleague and professor, Dr. Eliseo Perez Alvarez who will soon join your faculty, taught me several years ago, the term Hispanic hides our indigenous, African and Asian heritage that also colors our skin, our stories and our diverse languages of all of the Americas. 

So perhaps the month should be renamed in the public forum to include all of the beautiful diversity of our creation stories. Our Latinx community is beautifully diverse and varied in its expression.  We need to hear ALL the VOICES that make up the rich fabric and mosaic of our community.   

Diversity among US Born Latinos

Enough said on naming and othering others! 

As I read the Genesis text for today, I could not help but find resonance with Joseph’s story and my own family’s story of exile and diaspora.  We have all heard the story of Joseph and his brothers; it’s a story of betrayal, of human trafficking and slavery.  The brothers sell Joseph out of spite and jealousy for their Father’s favoritism. Sort of the way my 5 older siblings treat me, their kid brother, or as the comedian Rodney Dangerfield used to say back in the 20th Century when I was growing up:  “I get no respect!”  You may have to google Rodney Dangerfield to see how truly funny he was.  

 Joseph’s story is also one of redemption and forgiveness.  It’s a story of a dysfunctional family that leaves their sojourn in Canaan and flee to Egypt to escape the famine of the land. It’s a narrative full of drama; Joseph is enslaved and mistreated and then finds favor with the Pharaoh when he correctly interprets the Pharaoh’s dream about a future scarcity in the land. The Pharaoh delivers Joseph from slavery, names him the Prime Minister and puts him in charge of the granaries of the nation.  It’s a rags to riches kind of story. In today’s reading we find Joseph at the end of his life asking his family to bury him in the land of promise.  

And here is why the story makes me think of my family. 100 years ago, my parents’ family emigrated from Mexico to south Texas. 

Mi familia…

It was the time of the Mexican Revolution that lasted 10 years; my parents told me their story, an oral history that I wrote about in my dissertation when I was a student here. My grandparents did not want to leave their ancestral home, but they were forced to leave by the economic turmoil of the Mexican civil war.  My father would tell us that his family was hungry which forced them to take whatever they could on their person and cross the border into Texas.  He would also tell us:   El Pueblo tenía sed y hambre por justicia!  The people were thirsty and hungry for justice!  On the frame, my father is the young boy standing behind my grandfather Felipe.  

The U.S. Mexico border had crossed the family some sixty years before when Texas used to be Mexico.  Now they were aliens in their own land. My father was so attached to his tierra, his land of birth that he never became an American citizen; he remained a Mexican citizen until his death at 95 years. When he died my brothers and I hired a band of mariachis to play at his burial site, something not uncommon in Mexican burials.  The mariachis played the popular Mexican song, Mexico Lindo y Querido. 

The lyrics of the song go like this:  

Mexico Lindo y querido, Si muero lejos de ti, 

diles que estoy dormido y que me traigan aquí.  

Mexico, dear and beloved, If I die far from you,

tell them that I am asleep and bring me back here to rest in Mexico.”  

The song was a moving tribute for a man who had lived his life and raised his family in a land where his native language was subjected to a more powerful one.   

My mother on the far left…

My mother was born in south Texas in 1913 just three months after her parents came across from Mexico.  She too would tell us how her family was forced to emigrate because of the famine and the danger of violence to the family.  Se va poner feo, the people would say.  It’s going to get ugly.  So, they joined the many other Mexicans who crossed the border during that period to join family members who were already living in south Texas.  If you are looking at the frame, my mother is the 2 year- old standing on the chair.  She lived to be 102 and was the church’s and the town’s oral historian.  

I am sure that many of you have similar stories that you have collected from your families of origin; your ancestors may have come through Ellis Island or Angel Island on the West Coast, or perhaps Galveston Island or other places of entry or conquest as in the case of the borderlands, Puerto Rico and Hawaii as a Hawaiian student at the Episcopal Seminary taught me.   He carries the painful memory of that conquest and unjust takeover of the islands wherever he goes.  Many of us can relate to that kind of existential angst as we try to figure out who we are in our own country of origin, or what space we can safely inhabit without being subjected to deportation or family separation.  Joseph’s story is intriguing to me because it contains the elements of family and community trauma that finds resonance in many of our own stories.

site of detention centers in Texas – very close to where I grew up

In Texas where I live there are detention centers that keep people unjustly enslaved much like Joseph was when he was in Egypt; There is family separation at the border that keep mothers and children apart from each other.  They are placed in cages similar to what Joseph may have experienced when his alienness was a mark of shameful otherness.  It would take trust in God and a gift of holy visionary discernment to free Joseph from his cage.  It would take a condition of food insecurity to bring about the reconciliation with his family.  But Joseph can somehow see the good out of bad situation. As he indicates to his brothers in the narrative, what they meant for harm, God intended to use for the salvation of many; that is to say, God takes a bad situation and turns it around for good.  

God redeems the tragic dysfunctional family system because that is the nature of holy redemption.  God redeems what humans intend for harm; we see the fruit of it when Joseph forgives his brothers and provides for his family in Goshen where they will multiply and be fruitful in Egypt, the powerful nation of the day.  

I hope that one day soon we can say the same for the asylum seekers at the U.S. Mexico border, our siblings in Christ who are suffering the condition of criminalized otherness for being poor, for fleeing violence in their native countries and for being fearful of their persecution from organized criminal gangs.  Many people of faith reach out to them with food, medicines, hygiene care kits, and advocacy for humane treatment as a human right.  There is a group at the border called:  Angry Tías and Abuelas, Angry Aunties and Grandmothers

…a group of justice-oriented women who meet the asylum seekers in the middle of the bridge between the two countries and take food and supplies to the many who wait for a chance to enter the promise land of the north. These women and the men who help them are the signs of hope-filled redemption; they gather with people of different faith traditions; they band together to form communities of conscience who speak truth to power by their presence at the bridge.  These are folks who are willing to use their bodies as protest signs before the bulldozers that tear up sacred ancestral land in order to construct border walls to keep the asylum seekers out.  These women and men are visionaries who see and hear the holy in the most squalid of conditions and interpret for the church and the nation what Holy redemption looks like at the border.  

The Mellenbruch family.

100 years ago, my family received this same kind of care from a German family who reached out to them with their healing arts during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, just like the one we are going through only worse.

The Mellenbruch family reached out to the Alanís and Treviño families to nurse them back to health; the Mellenbruchs were the holy visionaries compelled by the Gospel to cross borders of cultural and linguistic difference in the name of the Crucified and Risen Christ.  

They were the faithful visionaries bearing fruits of righteous action in the name of the Gospel.  They brought salvific healing to Mexican families in exile and founded the church where I was baptized and confirmed, ordained and installed as a professor at the Lutheran Seminary Program in the Southwest.   

Joseph has Been Recognized by His Brothers – Marc Chagall

The Joseph story contains the fruitful figs of forgiveness, redemption, healing, and reconciliation that Jesus was referring to in the Gospel when he cursed the tree that would not bear fruit.  Joseph desired to be buried in a land of promise, a land of rich soil where fig trees do not dry up but bear much fruit such as the fig trees of achievement and contribution to the common good.  We the church bring our own Gospel figs of love, forgiveness, acceptance and healing arts to people of faith harmed by the rhetoric of unwelcomed alienness.  

We follow the Crucified and Risen One who forgave and redeemed our own alienness from ourselves and from each other and made us a Familia en Cristo, one family with many names who heal others and bear the Gospel figs of justice in His Name. 

So here is my final lesson:  If there is one thing that I have learned from the Joseph story and the Gospel over the many years of my ministry at the border, it is this:  The land of promise of the north is what we make of it in His name by God’s grace and the bread and tortillas that we share at the table are the work of a people of faith who till the soil of justice living so that no one goes hungry and all eat from the walls that have been turned into tables of welcome.  

May the people of God join me in saying, Amen.  

Rev. Dr. Javier Alanis

After his graduation from LSPS in May, 1992, Jay was ordained and served Trinity Lutheran Church in San Antonio, Texas for four years.  During that time he chaired the Multicultural Committee of the Southwest Texas Synod and also served on the board of the Multicultural Commission of the ELCA. He was then invited to pursue doctoral studies at LSTC and graduated with a Ph.D. in June, 2002.  Jay joined the faculty of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago at its extension program in Austin in January of 2000, a program in partnership with Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa.

Jay’s academic interests include contextual borderland theology, Latino/a spirituality and the ethics of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King, Jr.  His doctoral dissertation focused on the history of the imago Dei (image of God) construct as a venue for welcoming the stranger in an alien land.  In 2006 and 2019, he was invited to be a part of a panel that examined the subject of border walls at an international conference held in Berlin and at the Lutheran center in Wittenberg, Germany.  He was a keynote speaker at the Rocky Mountain Synod Assembly in April, 2009 and the guest preacher at the Southwestern Texas Synod Assembly in May, 2009.   He has been a presenter and preacher at various church forums and assemblies.  He has also taught from his dissertation topic at ISEDET seminary in Buenos Aires, Argentina and at Holden Village in Washington State.  He has been appointed to serve on the board of Texas Lutheran University in Seguin, Texas. For a more comprehensive view of his bio, you are invited to visit the LSPS website or his personal website.

Colonization and Assimilation – Nicole M. Garcia, M.Div., M.A. LPC

IMG_4512For the third post as part of Hispanic Heritage Month, Nicole Garcia – candidate for word and sacrament ministry in the Rocky Mountain Synod – shares a painfully poignant reflection on her life as a Latina in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Her family tracing its roots to the southwest in the 16th century – she shares how the rich guidance of her family’s Roman Catholic roots gave her direction, but how this latinidad of her background can often be at odds with the ELCA. Please read and share lovely friends – stories like hers are common in our church, and we must respond.

Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of the LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”

At the churchwide assembly in 2016, the ELCA passed a resolution, “Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery”[1] which calls for the church to “explicitly and clearly repudiate” the doctrine and “to acknowledge and repent of its complicity in the evils of colonialism in the Americas.”[2] The ELCA took responsibility for the part the Lutheran church played in taking lands from Native peoples in the northeastern part of the United States; far away from my ancestors who lived in the southwest.

Detail of “The Conquest of America,” by Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.

The people of the southwest had been colonized centuries before the arrival of the Lutherans. My blood is the blood of Spaniards and the blood of the native women raped by the men who claimed our land for their own under the Doctrine of Discovery. Centuries later, my people were colonized once again after the relatively young government of the Untied States renamed the doctrine—Manifest Destiny—a concept that justified the invasion of Mexico by the United States in 1846. When the war was over in 1848, Mexico ceded more than half of its territory to the United States under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.[3] Tracing my roots to the southwest all the way back to the late 1500s, this second land grab impacted my family directly and immediately.

So, Mexico abandoned my ancestors while the people of the United States cared only for the land we lived upon and what’s more we were told to assimilate and become “Americans.” We were part of North America already, but the people from the north coopted the name “American” and told us to speak English and adopt their values. Not paying much attention to the latest conquerors, my people created a culture separate from Mexico and the United States. We created our own food and music. We created our own spiritual beliefs and practices and so we lived in a world within a world.  

One of my earliest memories tied to my faith is that of my Grandma Celia, my father’s mother. I remember standing next to her as she prayed the Rosary. I don’t think I was yet five years of age when I stared at her lips as she prayed in Spanish to the Virgin Mary. When I left the family farm that day, grandma gave me the Rosary she had used. The beads were already well worn from use when grandma gave them to me and I still pray the Rosary on those beads from time to time. I now keep that Rosary on the altar by my bed, next to the other precious religious artifacts I treasure.

Why is the Rosary and the Virgin Mary so important to me? I must relate a story of La Virgen de Guadalupe; an intricate tale of the love and devotion of the Virgin Mary for the people colonized by the Spanish conquistadores and priests.

juan diego
Guadalupe appearing to Juan Diego

In a nutshell, the Virgin Mary appeared to a native man, Juan Diego, on the hill called Tepeyac in December of 1531, ten years after the conquest of Mexico by Spain and the fall of the Aztec Empire. The Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego three times. Each time, she told Juan Diego to go to the Bishop of Mexico and to tell the bishop to build a hermitage on the side of the hill so her people could come to her and be comforted by her. The bishop did not believe Juan Diego and ultimately the bishop demanded a sign to prove Juan Diego had actually seen the Virgin Mary.

Contemporary photo of Juan Diego’s tilma in the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico City.

The last time Mary appeared, on December 12th, she told Juan Diego to collect the flowers that grew at the top of the hill. He gathered the flowers in his tilma, the piece of cloth he wore around his shoulders, and took the flowers back to Mary. She arranged the flowers in the tilma and told Juan Diego to take the sign to the bishop. When Juan Diego unfurled the tilma, the flowers fell at the bishop’s feet and the image of La Virgen de Guadalupe was etched into the fabric of the tilma. That piece of cloth hangs on the wall in the Cathedral of Guadalupe built at Tepayac.[4] Why is this story so important to me? I came to this earth on December 12th—the day of this final, holy apparition—making me a Guadalupana (a devotee of the La Virgin de Guadalupe) by virtue of my very birth.

This cross-stitch depiction of la Virgen de Guadalupe was made for me by my cousin, Diane. She gave me this work of art as a thank-you gift for officiating at he daughter’s memorial service. Diane knew the gift would be special because of my devotion to Guadalupe.

I was baptized and confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church and was fiercely Roman Catholic in my teens and 20s. In my 20s, however, I learned how my people became Roman Catholic due to colonization and not because of faith. I realized didn’t want to be colonized anymore. I left that denomination in my mid-20s and stayed away from any church until my early 40s when I had an awakening of my faith, but I had no desire to return to the church of my youth. I discovered Lutheranism and fell in love with the theology. I discovered a rogue, excommunicated German priest who read scripture the way I read scripture and I learned I was saved by grace through faith and not through my own merit and works.

I was hooked, but the deeply held beliefs of my mother, aunts, and grandmothers are part of who I am as a Latina.

Yo soy una Guadalupana and I continue to pray the Rosary because the prayers remind me of my grandma Celia and reaffirm my devotion for La Virgen.

My faith is simple. My faith is strong, but I live in-between.

My face is brown, but I do not speak Spanish.

I love the work I do in the church, but I often feel I must prove I am “white enough” to be accepted in the ELCA—the denomination to which I’ve been called. I have occasionally felt the yoke of colonization upon my shoulders; a burden I have struggled to leave behind for more than half my life. I do feel loved and accepted in the church where I work as the Director of Congregational Care, but I often notice I have the only brown face in the sanctuary.

I do not want to believe the only place I truly fit in is with my family and God, but I know I live in-between two cultures. I have done as I have been told and assimilated, but at what cost? I fear the next generation will not remember from whence we came and the sacrifices made by our ancestors to live in our colonized land.

Nicole GarciaNicole M. Garcia (she/her/hers) is an out and proud transgender Latina of faith. Nicole has a Master of Arts in Counseling from the University of Colorado Denver and is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Colorado. Nicole is a Candidate Preparing for Word and Sacrament in the Rocky Mountain Synod and currently works as the Director of Congregational Care at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church – Boulder, Colorado. Nicole has a Master of Divinity from Luther Seminary in St. Paul MN.


[1] The resolution can be found at: (Accessed September 15, 2018)

[2] Vince Blackfox, “A Reflection on the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly’s Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery,” Journal of Lutheran Ethics (March 2017, Vol. 17, Issue 2), (Accessed September 15, 2018).

[3] See the National Archives:

[4] My favorite rendition of the Nican Mopohua, the original title of the story of La Virgen de Guadalupe, translated from the original Nahuatl language, and a detailed explanation can be found in:

Vigil Elizondo, Guadalupe: Mother of the New Creation (Maryknoll NY: Orbis Books, 1997).

Strange Pilgrims – Francisco Herrera


IMG_4512For the next several weeks we will be commemorating Hispanic heritage month – a federally recognized period like Black History Month – where we’ll be lifting up the voices of the ELCA who make up a part of great the Latin American diaspora here in the United States. Blog manager Francisco Herrera has penned the first installment – a reflection on what it means to be a Latino immigrant in a sea of other Latino immigrants as well as a teaser introduction to one of Latin America’s (and the world’s) greatest novelists – Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Read, comment, and share!

Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of the LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”


The first person to really teach me what it meant to be a Latino wasn’t my father. He was abusive to my family and tried to kidnap me when I was six, completing his too-long transformation into an angry ghost at the age of 44, turning any chance I had of connecting hometown’s Mexican American community into a game of Russian roulette.

It wasn’t even the many Mexicans with whom I toiled in countless restaurants as a young adult – though they certainly did their best to connect. That someone who shared their blood and was named after one of the great heroes of their revolutionary war – Francisco Villa, or as he is more commonly known “Pancho” Villa – but knew next to nothing of Mexico or its culture struck them as heresy. But apart from sharing family stories and relishing in what seemed to be a Rolodex of viciously picturesque profanity, and with our attempted camaraderie made difficult by language and class barriers, I didn’t learn so much.


Somewhat poetically, my first true maestra latina[1] was a summer fling named Nuria; a light-skinned latina — güera[2] like me — from Colombia. In the weeks we spent together as I huffed and puffed at an international music festival in the United States, she often addressed my need to get back to my roots, to know more of the culture where I was from. And I was eager to agree and learn – if anything because it meant we spent more quality time together.

“To understand where you come from,” she cooed one lazy July afternoon, “read this.” She then handed me a copy of what is arguably the novel of 20th century Latin America: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1927-2014). I had picked it up twice before, both times stuffing it into a desk drawer after reading  50 pages, but this time was different. When I returned to my hometown at the end of our romance, my personal copy resurrected itself from its musty, wooden sepulcher and evangelized me – within two years acquiring six more apostles/Marquez tomes – pressed together in their own special corner on my hand-me-down bookshelf.

But it wasn’t until I moved to Europe after college – among one of many expatriate students floating in the cacophonous neutrality of Geneva, Switzerland – that the dark potion bubbling from Marquez’ magical-realism cooking in my skull started to seep elsewhere. It all started when I began reading an anthology of Marquez’s short stories, a work about the curious lives of Latin American immigrants making due far from home – Strange Pilgrims.

To preview, click here.

The first of these tales, “Bon Voyage, Mr. President,” resonated with me far too deeply – not just because its setting was Geneva, Switzerland, where I had moved to continue my viola and orchestra conducting studies, but also because like the title character, my time in Geneva saw me marching in a rotating line-up of other Latin American expats – all of us seeking to find or recreate whatever shadows of our previous lives we could in a country known for militant anonymity. And of course we did all this while hustling to fit in, to find love and dancing in ways that paid our bills and kept us in the good graces of the immigration authorities – which one Swiss representative translated to me as “the alien police.”

So we were all aliens – yet the names of our planets weren’t Venus or Alpha Centauri or Rigel-4 – rather Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, la Republica Dominicana, and even los Estados Unidos.

To the Latinos at the conservatory where I studied, much like the army of restaurant workers I had known in the years before my move, I was at first something of an oddity – a gringo with such a Hispanic name who spoke German but not Spanish? Yet still they welcomed me because, like them, I was alone and displaced – all of us living lives not unlike a character in one of Marquez’s stories.

Like the Venezuelan virtuoso violinist – Gabriel – whose father sent him to Geneva not only to study, but also to avoid the risk of being kidnapped as the youngest son of a wealthy family. Or his girlfriend Amanda, a Chilena[3], whose grandparents fled Santiago de Chile when Agosto Pinochet came into power. Or good old Mario, the Colombiano indio[4] and brilliant jazzman of humble means, who paid for his annual student expenses by selling shaves and crumbles – at ridiculously low prices – of a 1 kilo block of something conceived and birthed in the finest back rooms in Medellín.

As I passed that first year of my studies, a line from Marquez’s story kept coming back to me – where a president over-thrown by a military coup describes Latin Americans as a people “conceived by the scum of the earth without a moment of love: the children of abductions, rapes, violations, infamous dealings, deceptions, the union of enemies with enemies.”[5]

And here all of us were – on a continent and among the people who had both educated and raped our ancestors, appreciated and exploited our resources, and all of this while being able to convince us of our inferiority despite the fact that their society was so damn boring, so predictable and bloodless by comparison with our homelands. But though we put up with it, and though in many respects hoped to be sanctioned by it, the alien police ever reminded us that acceptance by this ‘foreign’ culture was only ever going to be provisional – and so we had to stick together if we wanted anything like constancy or community.

And in that, maybe the functionary of the Swiss Consulate of Chicago was right when she talked about me – and so many other latinx friends in – under the authority of “alien police.” Their governments didn’t see as as immigrants, or even human. We were aliens, and as such – places like Colombia, Mexico, Bolivia, Brazil – were other planets whose people merited only subjugation, humiliation, and domination.

It was all the more wonderful, though, that my fellow peregrino latinos’[6] acceptance of me was so complete – even though I felt out-of-place so often.

And what’s more they were even the first to see and trust that God and me had a special relationship, that I had a call, and often blessed me as such – regularly asking for my help when something was off between them and God and the realm of the spirits.


Like when a former roommate of mine, a Boliviana[7], asked me to come to her place and help her cast out an evil spirit. Then later that afternoon, as we stood there in her apartments’ narrow hallway with tightening throats, something overcame me. Following the Holy Spirit’s direct cue for the first time in my life, I pulled out my Bible, began reading Psalm 23, had my friend hold a porcelain bowl filled with water, and the two of us spent twenty minutes reciting words of blessing and warning to the spirit that had been troubling her dreams and keeping her from eating – flicking water everywhere we could.

Or when, about a year later, one of the other Latino expats asked me if I could say prayers over his girlfriend – a sweetly harmless piano student from Colombia – as she had been slow and withdrawn after a long hospital stay. Again, like in that cramped hallway, the Spirit told me to tell the furrowed papi to get all of their friends together for dinner that night, whereupon I showed up with fresh fixings for chicken soup. And after we’d eaten the brew – all of us contributing something to its preparation – we laid on our hands and prayed Psalm 42 over her (“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?”) reminding her of how much we loved her and how we were there for her.

But despite their assurances that I truly was one of them, I could never get away from the fact – as I heard from story after story after story – that I was still a citizen of el imperio, the Empire, the United States – that had spent billions corrupting their governments and disrupting their lives. And if I truly loved these souls, mi gente, who loved me as their own, then I could never let myself forget the pain the land of my birth had caused them, and in every and any way possible I had to fight for their safety and peace. Only then would I truly be their family.

A mural from Caracas, Venezuela – the blue lettering says “out with imperialism,’ while the red says “only the people can save the people.” Note, too, the rat falling off of Uncle Sam’s back with the word “traitor” written across it.

Only then could I look back in the face of my country’s evil and declare to its smirking face “Let MY people go!”

In these next few weeks, “We Talk. We listen.” will be featuring a series of blog posts in commemoration of Hispanic Heritage Month. Beginning on September 15 – the date of the Declaration of Independence (1821) of Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras – and ending on October 15 – usually around Indigenous People’s Day or Dia de la Raza those of us here in the United States, of the Latin American diaspora that dwell among the ELCA, will claim these 30 days to talk about ourselves, to sing our songs and to share the beauty of our tears. For though many, quoting Marquez, may see those of us of Hispanic/Latino descent as being “born of the scum of the earth without a moment of love,” most of the world seems to have forgotten how much God loves working with the scum, with fools and widows and orphans – with wanderers and itinerant preachers that are too concerned about the coming of God’s dominion to trouble themselves over washed hands and fresh linen.

And we hope you enjoy our stories. They are the things that remind us of who we are, keep us tied to each other and to God, and are the womb and cradle of what makes us distinct in this life.

A canopy made of all the flags of the countries of Latin America – used during a protest against the occupation of Iraq.

selfie greyBefore coming to Chicago Francisco Herrera studied classical music (viola and orchestra conducting) in his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri and then Geneva, Switzerland. After feeling the call to ministry at his home church in Geneva, The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Geneva, he returned to the US to enter seminary in 2005, completing his M.Div. from Chicago Theological Seminary in 2012. Since beginning his Ph.D studies at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC)  in Fall of 2013, he has also been developing his skills as a seminary instructor, both at LSTC and the Lutheran Seminary Program in the Southwest. And when he isn’t doing any of those things, polymath and scatterbrain that he is, Francisco likes to write worship and devotional music, blogs at, tweets at @PolyglotEvangel, and travels the country as one of the central leaders of #decolonizeLutheranism.

[1] Spanish for a ‘latina teacher.’

[2] güero/güera – a Mexican slang for someone with light skin.

[3] A woman from Chile.

[4] An Colombian male of indigenous descent.

[5] Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Strange Pilgrims, NY, NY: Penguin Books, 1992. 24.

[6] Peregrino – Spanish for ‘pilgrim.’

[7] A woman from Bolivia.