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Bordering Faith: spiritual transformation, cultural change, and Chicana/o youth


For several decades now, ethnographers, historians, and religious scholars alike have explored charismatic forms of Christianity among Mexican American or Chicana/o youth, chiefly in southern California, because this social group now represents the fastest growing segment of U.S. Pentecostalism (Lugo et al. 2007; Hackett 2015). In this relatively short period of time, researchers have almost exclusively concentrated their studies on congregational experiences, paying little attention to the religious expressions of these youth between Sundays. Furthermore, no study has examined the cultural practices of religious youth in predominantly Chicana/o communities or how such youth are exposed to and even draw from other cultures to pump life into the global charismatic and Pentecostal movement.

In order to shed light on the untold experiences of such youth beyond church walls, this study ventures into a Chicana/o majority community alongside the U.S. border with Mexico to find out more about the implications of religious assimilation, or how these youths internalize Pentecostalism, and how socio-economic elements influence this process. The study utilizes field research, cultural archives, participant-observation, a survey instrument, and interviews to document and explore the cultural implications that stem from this popular form of assimilation presented in three case studies. In doing so, the study describes how religious assimilation happens in aggrieved communities of color and suggests Pentecostal assimilation is an increasingly popular life path by which individuals and groups in a Chicana/o majority community are transforming the long history of mestizo/indigenous independence through innovations and disruptions in dominant culture in order to create new spaces of belonging that disrupt cultural representations of the brown body and brown soul. In the end, this dissertation gives impetus to an ongoing exercise in Chicana/o Studies for understanding and interpreting the development of an expanding evangelical Chicana/o experience that is challenging traditional religious practices and related paradigms used to interpret the Chicana/o experience in the twenty-first century.

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