Transformation in America’s Largest Church
Princeton University Press, $29.95, 328 pp.
We didn’t cross the border; the border crossed us!” This wry Mexican-American refrain serves as a reminder that the Hispanic presence in what is now the United States goes back a very long way. After all, the entire Southwest belonged to Mexico until 1848. And of course, the Spanish were the first Europeans to settle North America, establishing settlements—and Catholic missions—in locations as widespread as St. Augustine, Florida (1565); San Antonio, Texas (1718); and San Francisco, California (1776).
This Latino presence, however, was largely left out of narratives of U.S. history. After the U.S. conquest of Mexico’s former territory (including large parts of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California), Spanish-speaking people in the region often lost their land, rights, and status; their contributions to the development of the area were downplayed or dismissed; and Eastern politicians and the literate public invoked the notion of Manifest Destiny to encourage colonization and settlement of the West by white settlers.
The exclusion of the Latino story has also affected common historical understandings of the Catholic Church in the United States. As Timothy Matovina points out in his comprehensive and timely ...