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Eighteen months ago, our family was in the midst of a year-long stay in the Netherlands. On one weekend, we visited the university town of Leiden and marveled at its university founded in 1575. As we wound our way through narrow streets and over canals, I came to a full stop outside of the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum. Reading the plaque on the building, my hazy American history came a bit more into focus as I was reminded of how that mythic band of settlers had decamped first from England to Holland, and after a sojourn in Leiden of about a decade, made their way on to the so-called New World.


We’re still unpacking the history of Thanksgiving that will forever be married to those settlers. As it would happen, this most American of holidays is born out of two of the most grievous episodes in our national story – the conquest of Native American peoples and the legacy of slavery.


It was Abraham Lincoln who declared the first official Thanksgiving in 1863 to mark the Union victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg, victories in a war that was always about slavery. The founder of Thanksgiving, while a president of epic stature, remains an ambivalent abolitionist in history, having stated, “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that."


This past July, the Massachusetts coastal town of Plymouth celebrated the 400th anniversary of the landing in 1620 of those “pilgrims” (a name bestowed on them only in the 1880s). It would be a year later when, after twelve months of hardship, the settlers gathered for a multi-day feast with members of the native Wampanoag people who had taught them how to plant and the best places to fish. The only surviving written account of this event appears in a letter that ‘pilgrim’ Edward Winslow wrote to a relative back in England:


"Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that we might after a more special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some 90 men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."


I came across the excerpt of this letter on the website of the Plimoth Plantation Museum that is dedicated to preserving and interpreting the story of both those early settlers and the indigenous Wampanoag. I appreciate how the museum grapples openly with the history it curates: “This land that is both Patuxet and Plymouth speaks to the emergence of an Indigenous-English hybrid society that existed here – in conflict and in collaboration – in the 17th century. It is a complex and interwoven story of diplomacy and subterfuge, of respect and of oppression, of friendship and enmity, of innovation forged of necessity. In short, it is America. It is the history we are all still living today.


The museum is led by both indigenous and non-indigenous people and seeks to be an ally to the original people on whose land it rests. Among the listed press releases from the museum is this post: A Message of Support for the Mashpee Wampanoag Community.” This statement was spurred by the news that “on March 27, 2020, the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs informed the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe that the tribe's reservation will be "disestablished" and its land taken out of trust.” As part of their response, the museum urged support for the "Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act” (HR.312) which has been passed by the House but has yet to be voted on in the Senate.


The Chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, Cedric Cromwell, Qaqeemasq (Running Bear), issued a statement following the action of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which said in part:


[W]e the People of the First Light have lived here since before there was a Secretary of the Interior, since before there was a State of Massachusetts, since before the Pilgrims arrived 400 years ago. We have survived, we will continue to survive. These are our lands, these are the lands of our ancestors, and these will be the lands of our grandchildren. This Administration has come and it will go. But we will be here, always. And we will not rest until we are treated equally with other federally recognized tribes and the status of our reservation is confirmed.


Tomorrow, our immediate family will sit down for a meal that we are blessed to enjoy. We will connect via one Zoom call with my sister in Florida and my brother in New Jersey, and in a second Zoom call with my wife’s family in Ohio. We will be mindful of those who go without, and all who have suffered and continue to struggle through this pandemic. And we will be thankful – for all the blessings in our lives, and for this country of ours – whose history we continue to untangle, and whose promise we continue to strive for.

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Written by Yenny Delgado, Board Member of Interwoven Congregations


The Latin American community is not a single monolithic group; instead, it reflects the diversity of the continent’s colonization and is part of our past and present. Today in the United States, the Latin community demonstrates racial diversity and distinctive heritages. The native population is still strong with their traditions and language, Afro-descendants are reclaiming their narrative and struggles, and Euro- descendants take advantage of a white supremacist society to move ahead.


In understanding the Latin American Community, we need to be aware that we are talking about populations first under Spanish rule and later under the U.S. (English) control either through conquest or purchase. In this expansion driven by the ideas of Manifest Destiny, many indigenous populations were subsumed under new colonizers.


According to the historian Dr. Cristina Mora who wrote “Making Hispanics,” previously disparate groups, including Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, and Cubans were categorized under the racial group as “white” or “Black.” However, due to their segmentation, the groups lacked any political representation for individuals whose first language was Spanish. A group of influential leaders from the community realized that combining the groups could lead to significant economic and political power. They decided that the term “Hispanic,” a descendant of Spanish, could reflect the entire community’s name. The U.S. government first used the term Hispanic in the 1970s. Notably, this occurred under the administration of Republican President Richard Nixon.

Creating the term “Hispanics” was an effort to consolidate a diverse community into a single label. Thus, several inroads were made to expand their base with the group of “Spanish Speakers” that were also diverse and fast-growing. After the 1990s, the term “Latin/Latino” became more heavily utilized in recognition that not all people are considered descendants of Spanish.


White, Black, and Brown?

“Brown people” or “la raza” has become a coded way to identify the Latin community. However, as should be abundantly clear, the Latin community does not reflect just a one-color group. Regardless, colorism is still at work in silence and benefits the group in power. The darker you are, the more invisible you will be. The Latin community is not immune to white supremacy; color matters. Let’s look at the primary news anchors, social media, or entertainment. This group of Latinos is in the majority of positions of power and prestige. This is because in the rules of the white society, they are the ones who are welcome.


But what about the indigenous and Afro descendants who are also part of the Latin community? They are foundational to the community and are often the least visible when it comes to leadership positions. However, indigenous and Afro descendants are the first mentioned when it comes to economic problems, migrations, and criminality. They suffer double discrimination from white Anglos and the white Latinos. Indigenous people are forced into silence from their suffering through colonization, stolen land, and impoverishment. Afro-descendants are forced to be silent about their ancestors’ enslavement when Europeans robbed and enslaved them in Latin America.


English, Spanish, or Náhuatl?

The question arises about what language represents the Latin Community. The recognition that Spanish or English are European languages clarifies that speaking one or both does not mean we are European descendants. Instead, the consequences of colonization are still present in our societies today. For many and new generations, the language is not a reference to ethnicity because indigenous languages and cultures were forcibly removed and not taught by the school system; for example, indigenous people from the United States who speak English are not considered English descendants. Why is it that indigenous people who speak Spanish are considered Latin? The term is another mechanism to put everyone in a box without understanding who we are. Individuals who migrated here also speak Nahuatl, K’iche, Qichwa, Aimara, or other native American languages and subsequently raised their children in bicultural homes.


Does this story surprise you regarding the Latin community? We all need to read more about Latin American history and colonization to unpack what some labels have aimed to hide.


 

Yenny Delgado (she/her/ella) Social psychologist and contextual theologian. She writes about the intersections between politics and faith and serves as a Board Member of Interwoven Congregations.


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Updated: Nov 17, 2020


This is a day of choices. More accurately, given early voting, this has been nearly a month of choices. (Or does it feel like a year?) There's something humbling about the voting process. You may have sent in campaign contributions. You may have written postcards, or made phone calls. You may have helped get someone to the polls. Hopefully, you have cast your own ballot (or are in the process of doing so). But at this point, (aside from all the poll workers, bless them!) all that most of us can do now is sit back and wait for the results to come in.


Whatever the outcomes will be in the pending races today, tomorrow will bring new choices. There will be the everyday choices, the mundane choices -- between cereal or eggs, meeting over Zoom or by cell, making that Amazon purchase or masking up and heading out to a local business to buy something the old-fashioned way.


And then there are those profound choices which face us as a nation, as communities, as individuals. They are multiple given the array of challenges that are before us. But one choice seems particularly urgent at this time. What will we do, individually and collectively, to grab hold of, and then uproot, the invasive scourge of racism in our country? So many have labored so long and at such sacrfice in this work over the years. But the basic question remains before us as a society. Do we in fact believe that all people are created equal and are endowed with certain inalienable rights? Do we believe each person is a child of God? If so, the time has arrived for a sustained, unwavering effort -- a renewed campaign -- for racial justice and healing.


Regardless of the outcome of the Presidential election, consequential as that is, the chief focus of this antiracism work resides with each of us. It will require us to make daily choices in our personal interactions, in our work or school settings, in our faith communities, wherever we gather and may have influence.


One thing I missed last week as I slid my ballot into the official Maryland voting collection box was receiving my sticker. You know the one -- that "I voted!" sticker that poll workers hand to you after you emerge from the voting machine and you stick on your lapel or windbreaker. If I could wave a wand, I would make it possible for each person to receive a sticker emblazoned with "I choose racial justice!" after each interaction or step taken to confront racism, promote equity and lift up the dignity of each person. Imagine seeing people festooned with these little stickers of encouragement as you passed them on the street, testifying to their choices made that day.


The gospels of Matthew and Mark each tell the story of a leper who approaches Jesus, seeking to be healed. The leper says a striking thing. "Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” Jesus extends his hand to touch the leper, and then replies, "I do choose. Be made clean!” (Matthew 8:2-4)


If we choose, we can rid this nation -- over time -- of racism.


The polls are open for a few more hours. As I wait, perhaps like you, a question emerges.


What will we choose tomorrow?



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