I am certainly NOT an expert on Latin American culture, and I never could be!
Regions are made up of countless cities, villages, towns, social groups, families, and individuals. While there are times when it might seem easy to put them all into one box…
- “People from the United States all eat big lunches.”
- “Warm-climate people tend to be less punctual.”
… it is important to remember that the groups that make up a region can be very distinct. People are defined by their personal experiences and influences.
I grew up in the Caribbean but with parents born and raised in the Midwest of the United States. I like island time (Antiguan culture) but don’t run on it and tend to be overly organized (thanks Dad!) In the same way, my friend Patricio (Chilean) might come as a shock because he often announces “Cheers!” (2 years studying in Britain) in the middle of a conversation. While my school in La Tercera is more laid-back, my husband’s school located five minutes away in Los Cristales, is a tight-ship!
There can be similarities in regions but those similarities certainly do not define the people who live there or who are from there!
Ok. I went on that little culture rant because I have been thinking a lot about it recently, especially during Holy Week.
When moving to Chile, we heard a lot about it through various sources. In regards to religion, we heard:
- Chileans are mostly non-practicing Catholics or “Cultural Catholics.”
- Many Chilean Catholics know a great deal about Good Friday and Jesus’ suffering and death but little to nothing about the joys of Easter. Christ is a figure of death but not life.
The statements above aren’t necessary wrong or true. They are instead based on the experiences of those who relayed that information to us.
My personal experiences after only being here for half-a-year are:
- Many Chileans do identify with Catholicism. However, a large number (in my personal conversations) either identify as Evangelicals or without religion. If you were to drive through the towns that we teach in or in Linares itself, you would see tons of tiny Evangelical churches that have popped up and are growing.
- This past week I was teaching my third grade class about holidays. I held up the Easter flashcard and asked students to tell me what it was. Apart from shouting out that it was for the Easter Bunny, many shouted “Jesus Died!” How happy I was to show and explain to them the picture of Jesus rising from the dead! In a major contrast, Jon’s school began their Monday after Easter with a huge act celebrating the Jesus and His resurrection!
Those are my experiences. The experiences of someone in a different city might be completely different!
People and cultures are complex things. Thank goodness it is not our job to perfectly summarize them! Our job is much easier: to share His resurrection with those who do know and those who don’t know.
Holy Week turned out to be a special blessing for us. Apart from remembering and celebrating all that Jesus DID for us, we were also excited about a couple of other things.
As a church we celebrated Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday together. These special services are a little more challenging when there is no permanent pastor to organize everything. It was a great opportunity to work together as members to prepare things for worship! Members painted the church windows to depict the cross and the open tomb. Others cleaned the church and re-dressed it with the appropriate colors according each service. Others brought flowers, food, and gifts for Easter Sunday or prepared special music. And others figured out printing the bulletins and the sermons.
Apart from organizing the services, Holy Week was also special because visitors joined us! Our hearts were so happy when we saw two prospects whom we had been talking to for a long time come through the door. One even brought her little son! Another little gift on Sunday happened when my taxi driver asked me to tell him when and where our Bible classes were.
It is amazing to see the wonderful impact of Easter in our everyday lives. Because of Easter we have LIFE in Him and because of Easter we can share with others so that they too can celebrate here on earth and in heaven some day.
That’s way cooler than the Easter Bunny.
Feliz Pascua del Resurrección!