By Hjamil A. Martínez-Vázquez
January 1, 2010, 160 pages
Latinas/os are the fastest growing “minoritized” ethnic group in the United States and Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in the U.S. It is therefore no surprise that the Latina/o Muslim population is one of the fastest growing communities in the U.S. As a minority within a minority, the ways in which Latina/o Muslims construct their identity is not only interesting in itself but also of interest for how they challenge traditional understandings of U.S. Latina/o identity. This book explores this process, focusing particularly on the way in which cultural memory is dis-covered through religious experience and how this memory becomes the foundation for constructing and understanding U.S. Latina/o identity.
Though magazine articles have explored the social location and identity of U.S. Latina/o Muslims within the larger Muslim community, this is the first book to formally research the way Muslims construct their U.S. Latina/o identity. Thanks to a grant from the Research and Creative Activities Fund at Texas Christian University and a Junior Scholar Grant from the Southwest Commission on Religious Studies, for two years I visited U.S. Latina/o Muslim groups across the U.S., my interviews focusing not only on individuals’ reversion (conversion) stories and the reasons behind those decisions, but also and mainly on the way Latina/o Muslims see themselves within the U.S. Latino community.
Given the absence of major academic research exploring U.S. Latina/o Muslims, these Muslims’ voices have been mostly absent from discussions about U.S. Latina/o identity. By bringing their voices to the forefront of these discussions we begin to change how we understand the role of religious experience within the process of identity building. The book’s greatest contribution is its exploration of how U.S. Latina/o Muslims use cultural and historical memory to construct their identity. Furthermore, since Latina/o religious experience in the United States up until now has largely assumed Christianity as the de facto religion, this work brings a whole new angle to studies in this area. Finally, Latina/o y Musulmán lays the broader analytical foundation for how the religious experiences of non-Christian U.S. Latinas/os shape the process of identity construction.