One only needs to pick up the daily newspaper to witness the profound impact of la herencia Hispana (Hispanic heritage) on our society.
From the look and language of our marketing campaigns to the form and function of contemporary fashion; from the music that is crossing over cultural and linguistic barriers to the outcomes of our political elections; the contributions of the Latino community are changing the very fabric of this land we all call home.
We are reminded of this yet again as we see the adornment of windows, tabletops and fireplaces with the poinsettia plant this holiday season. What many might not know is that this traditional symbol of the holidays, although considered very U.S. American today, actually began as an import from Latin America. Over a century ago Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, brought the radiant red, star-shaped plant to America. Even as far back as the 17th century it is said that Franciscan friars in Mexico used poinsettias as part of their Christmas celebrations. Many believed that the plant’s shape symbolized the Star of Bethlehem, and the deep red color of the leaves represented the blood of Christ. Today, poinsettias contribute over $250 million to the U.S. economy, making it the most popular holiday symbol next to the Christmas tree.
What if society began to take hold of another pillar of Latino culture- namely, its high regard for God’s Word- and integrated it into mainstream living? Recent data shows that 53% of US Latinos are considered friendly towards the Bible, compared to only 39% of the general public.* Many also desire God’s Word to have a greater impact on today’s society.
What if we seized this opportunity to place the greatest gift of all, God’s restorative Word, back into the heart of our society? As faith leaders within one of the fastest growing segments of the population, we can once again lead the charge, be the catalysts for change and spark a movement that can have a profound impact on generations to come. Although it took centuries for the poinsettia to become an integral part of mainstream culture, we can infectiously spread the seeds of love and respect for God’s Word if we each become living testimonies of its life-changing message. And this, my friends, only comes as we read it daily and allow it to transform us from the inside out.
By Dr. Emilio Reyes
President, American Bible Society
*(Hispanic America: Faith, Values and Priorities, co-commissioned by Barna Hispanics, American Bible Society, NHCLC, and OneHope).