Latinx Mormon Activists March to #FreeOurFuture
By Jennifer Gonzalez
On Monday, July 2, 2018, several Mormones Feministas will join the coalition led by Mijente and march in San Diego, CA, to #FreeOurFuture, #AbolishICE, and #EndSessions. Our group is small, but we will also carry proxy cards with the names of those who can’t attend in person but wish to lend their support to the resistance. Those cards have become a Mormon feminist protest tradition rooted in some of the most sacred rituals of our faith.
My own list of personal proxy names includes three women I call my Manas Mexicanas—a contingent of Mexican and Mexican-American women from the Mormon feminist community whose lives have all been shaped in some way by the complexity and trauma of the U.S. immigration system.
Laura has lived undocumented in the U.S. for years. Azul is a deportee and former childhood arrival separated from her U.S.-based family for the past 9 years. Anya frequently travels to the U.S. from Mexico City for her international relations work. I am a U.S. citizen granddaughter of undocumented Mexican migrant workers and border families and an immigration/asylum attorney and activist.
My circle of sisters ties me to the broader community of Latinx Mormon activists who have taken on the mantle of the resistance, fighting for social justice within and beyond Mormonism. Our march in San Diego is dedicated to Berta Marquez, a beloved community member who was laid to rest this weekend. Berta was a Guatemalan refugee and fierce advocate who helped create loving, open spaces for LGBTQ+ Mormons. From the Juntos Sin Fronteras campaign launched several years ago to encourage LDS support for humane immigration policy reform to the Rational Faith’s Racism 101 podcast hosted by Miguel Barker-Valdez, we are leveraging our faith, our identities, our education, and our experience for the work of resistance.
Dr. Ignacio Garcia, a professor of Western and Latino History at Brigham Young University, recently reminded me that while many Latinx Mormons fall on the more conservative side of the social and political spectrum, “Staying is an act of resistance.” In a religious community that is often dominated by white, U.S. culture and leadership, Latinx Mormons have long refused to fully assimilate or disappear.
His perspective reminded me of the year I spent in Utah attending a Spanish-speaking congregation. A huge number of the members of that ward we’re conversant and even fluent in English, but their choice to attend and support that congregation was laced with what Dr. Garcia describes as “daily acts of resistance.” I witnessed leaders I considered fairly orthodox and “compliant” push back at subtle expressions of racism, insistent on using Spanish in front of higher up English-speaking leaders, and refuse to let the institutional penchant for standardization completely white-wash their traditions and identity. And, of course, despite the institutional Church’s commitment to “honoring and sustaining the law,” Latinx Mormons have quietly but consistently demanded a theological shift that has driven the church to advocate for inclusive, justice-driven immigration reform and actively supported and embraced undocumented members and leaders.
Younger, progressive Latinx Mormons can often feel isolated and marginalized by a faith community defined by whiteness and conservative orthodoxy. Our own parents may see our activism as evidence of our rebellion and the failure of our faith. And yet, it is from the seeds of those daily acts of resistance we inherited from them and our Latinx Mormon forebears that we are driven us to resurrect the radical roots of our faith tradition. It is the refusal to be silenced and the refusal to disappear that takes me to the streets of San Diego this week.