In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Protestantism

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Anthologies
  • Bibliographies
  • Journals
  • Theology
  • Historiography
  • Practical Theology
  • Ministry
  • Ethics
  • Theory and Method
  • Civic Engagement
  • Spirituality
  • Demographics
  • Missiology
  • Organizations

Latino Studies Protestantism
Paul Barton
  • LAST REVIEWED: 03 February 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0027


Latino mainline Protestantism in the US mainland was closely tied to the ideology of Manifest Destiny. Protestant missionaries brought with them the belief that the US Euro-American culture and way of being was superior to others. This was not the case in Puerto Rico, where few Protestant congregations existed in the 19th century until the Spanish-American War of 1898; following the US victory, several Protestant denominations sent missionaries to the island, and these missionaries came with the same paternalistic worldview and ethos that the missionaries to the US Southwest had. Thus in order to fully understand Latino Protestantism, especially among mainline denominations, one needs to recognize the religious, cultural, and political values and worldviews that the Euro-American missionaries inculcated in them. Analysis of Euro-American Protestant roots is not as necessary for Latino Pentecostals. The first Latino Pentecostals in the Southwest developed independently of Protestant denominations. Mexicans and Mexican Americans were present at the very beginning of the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles in 1906. Soon after that, they began to evangelize other Mexicans and Mexican Americans throughout the Southwest and in Mexico. They also shared the Pentecostal faith a few years later in Puerto Rico. Because of their independent development, Latino Pentecostals, especially Oneness Pentecostals, were not constrained by Euro-American values and worldviews like their mainline Protestant brethren; Latino Pentecostals created an indigenous religion that integrated their Latino culture and situations. Latino Protestantism has been transnational since its inception. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, a Spanish-speaking Methodist conference transcended the US.–Mexico border. Missionaries, preachers, and churches from both sides of the border were included in the same judicatory (annual conference) and clergy were appointed to churches in both countries notwithstanding their nationality. The Oneness Pentecostal tradition among Latinos developed in a transnational setting. Latino Oneness Pentecostals transgressed the US–Mexico border frequently, with Mexicans helping to develop Pentecostal churches in the Southwestern United States and Mexican Americans supporting the development of their tradition in Mexico. Puerto Rico became a seedbed for sending Protestant and Pentecostal missionaries to the rest of Latin America. More recently, Latino Pentecostalism has benefited from the migration of Latin American Pentecostals to the United States. There is a rich relationship between Latino Protestants/Pentecostals and their Latin American counterparts.

General Overviews

Aponte and De La Torre 2006 provides an introduction to Latina/o theologies and helpful introductory essays on various groups of Latino Protestants. Unlike most works relating to Latinos, Avalos 2004 describes the unique characteristics of the major subgroups of Latinos. This helps the reader to avoid viewing Latinos in a homogeneous light. Avalos 2004 also provides a sociological perspective, while Fernández 2000 marks one of the first attempts at a history of Hispanic Theology. As such, the Latino Protestant theologians he treats are the first generation of Hispanic theologians. Martinez-Guerra and Scott 2004 supplies one of the first Spanish-language overviews that combines the History and the current condition of Latino Protestantism. Martínez 2011 features the most thorough overview for persons seeking to learn about Latino Protestants. Ortiz 1993 contains a sociohistorical account of Hispanics, along with missiological, ethical, and educational thoughts that served to help church ministers work more effectively among Latinos. It was a book most helpful for church leaders and persons interested in engaging in Hispanic Ministry. Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project 2007 provides the most recent demographic study of Latinos’ religious beliefs and practices on a national level. Rodriguez 2011 is a timely update to Ortiz 1993, taking into account that many Latinos’ dominant language is English and so the church needs to incorporate multigenerational ministries and worship to accommodate the linguistic and generational variety of Latinos.

  • Aponte, Edwin David, and Miguel A. De La Torre, eds. Handbook of Latina/o Theologies. St. Louis, MO: Chalice, 2006.

    This anthology has very helpful essays that introduce the reader to various groups of Latino Protestants, including “Historic Mainline Protestants (184–190),” “Evangélicos/as (191–198),” and “Pentecostals (199–205).”

  • Avalos, Hector, ed. Introduction to the U.S. Latina and Latino Religious Experience. Boston: Brill, 2004.

    The most comprehensive account of religious experience among the various subgroups of Latinos. In addition to describing the particularities of these subgroups—Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans—the work includes a section on significant elements of US Latino religious experience, including art, film, health care, literature, music, politics, and women.

  • Fernández, Eduardo C. La Cosecha: Harvesting Contemporary United States Hispanic Theology (1972–1998). Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2000.

    Fernández’s review of the development of Hispanic theology includes an important section on Justo L. González and other Latino Protestant theologians such as Orlando Costas, Harold Recinos, Eldin Villafañe, Samuel Solivan, and Ismael García.

  • Martínez, Juan Francisco. Los Protestantes: An Introduction to Latino Protestantism in the United States. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2011.

    This is the culmination of many years of research by Martínez on Latino Protestants. It includes a review of three major demographic studies on Latino populations, and provides the most current and helpful introduction to Latino Protestantism while also demonstrating the varieties of Latino Protestantism in the United States.

  • Martinez-Guerra, Juan F., and Luis Scott, eds. Iglesias peregrinas en busca de identidad: Cuadros del Protestantismo Latino en los Estados Unidos. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Kairos Ediciones, 2004.

    A collection of essays (in Spanish) that chronicle various aspects of Latino Protestantism. The book provides historical and contemporary narratives that give a sense of the specific identity of Latino Protestantism. Additionally anticipates a hopeful future for the identity and significance of Latino Protestantism.

  • Ortiz, Manuel. The Hispanic Challenge: Opportunities Confronting the Church. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1993.

    Ortiz divides the book into three sections: a sociohistorical overview of Hispanics, missiological/ecclesiological issues, and leadership and education. He notes that Hispanic ministry needs to include knowledge of and skills for urban ministry. Several issues in this book are developed and updated in Rodriguez’ A Future for the Latino Church (Rodriguez 2011).

  • Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project. Changing Faiths: Latinos and the Transformation of American Religion. Washington, DC: Pew Hispanic Center and Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 2007.

    A comprehensive national study of the religious beliefs and practices of Latinos. This is a helpful companion to Hispanic Churches in American Public Life: Summary of Findings by Gastón Espinosa, et al. (Notre Dame, IN: Institute for Latino Studies, 2003) In addition to demographic information, the report highlights aspects of Latinos’ religious practices, including conversion, politics, and the Protestant/Evangelical/Pentecostal traditions.

  • Rodriguez, Daniel A. A Future for the Latino Church: Models for Multilingual, Multigenerational Hispanic Congregations. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011.

    Noting that sixty percent of Hispanics are born in the United States, Rodriguez argues that the future of the Hispanic Church must take into account ministry to this group, which is largely English-speaking. Rodriguez posits that the Hispanic Church needs to address the varieties of cultural identity as it embraces multigenerational ministry.

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