Latina Liberation Theology: ‘Thank You, Ada Maria’

Here’s an excerpt from my column from Sojourners (July 2012) honoring mujerista theologian Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz who died suddenly in May. I’m firmly convinced that her work will, in the not too distant future as demographics in the U.S. continue to shift, be seen as critically important to understanding the future of American Christian feminism. I’m grateful for the generous comments I received from Rosemary Radford Reuther, Fernando Segovia, Gabriel Salguero, and others remembering Ada Maria:

… Ada was “a pioneer,” Catholic theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether told Sojourners. “She gave us a vision of justice and integrity for Latina women in the U.S. and the world that was inspiring”; her work is “an integral part of feminist theological thought.”

Ada María Isasi-Díaz was born in Cuba in 1943, the third of six sisters and two brothers. Her father worked in the sugar cane mills, and her mother nourished in Ada a love of Catholic religious practices and the importance of staying in the struggle (la lucha) for what one believes. Her family fled Cuba after years of civil war, and in 1960, at age 17, Ada arrived in the U.S. as a political refugee. Soon she joined the Ursuline sisters and, in 1967, was sent to Lima, Peru, as a missionary.

“I lived there for three years,” Ada wrote. “This experience marked me for life … It was there that the poor taught me the gospel message of justice. It was there that I learned to respect and admire the religious understandings and practices of the poor and the oppressed and the importance of their everyday struggles, of lo cotidiano.”

Her research on lo cotidiano—the dynamic daily lives of Latino/as—argued that theology didn’t have to be only about God in the abstract, but should include what people know about God and how they acquire that knowledge. In this way she identified Latinas and their community, traditions, habits, moral judgments, and self-definition as the primary source material for learning about their God experience. By relocating her primary theological sources out of the academy and to the kitchens, laundromats, home altars, and familias of Latina women, Ada flipped the locus of power, authority, and agency. …–Rose Marie Berger

Read the whole column here.

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