A.                INTRODUCTION

The United States is home for the fifth largest of twenty concentrations of Hispanics in the world. There are more Spanish living here than live in all Central America [31 million] or most Spanish-speaking countries, [excepting Mexico 124 million]. In fact, about 12 percent of the world's 400,000,000 Spanish-speakers reside here. Reliable figures are tenuous at best, but the U. S. Census Bureau, by means of a list of 8,000 Spanish surnames compiled by the Immigration and Naturalization Service for the 1990 census, has established that this "invisible minority" is 15 percent of our population, or 57,000,000, or more than the total population of Canada, 36 million. It is estimated that 12 million undocumented aliens live here, most of whom are Hispanic. It appears that Hispanics are now the largest ethnic minority surpassing the blacks, 36.1 million, because of a higher birth rate. Between 2000 and 2001, the Hispanic population grew by 4.7%, compared to .03% for non-Hispanic whites. A prediction by our government is that the Hispanic population will double by the year 2025. In 1996, 17.3 million speak Spanish in the home. [Note that Spanish is the third most spoken language in the world after Chinese and English.] Hispanics account for about half of America's population growth annually. In CA they make up 33% of the population.

Their presence has already been recognized by the television industry. The twenty-three-year-old National Spanish Television Network (SIN) by 1984 had 199 affiliates interconnected by satellite to reach the 3.1 million Spanish-speaking households across the United States, all in Spanish. Would this not be an excellent method of getting the gospel into these homes?  

The Hispanic population has exploded since 1980—14.6 million,  2005---43, 2016---57 MILLION.  USNWR, 3-03 reported, they are the ‘New New World, too big and growing too fast to be ignored’. 

Univision Communications, the Spanish broadcasting colossus, in 2003 bought the Hispanic Broadcasting Corp, the nation’s largest Latino radio network, underlining the clout of Spanish language media and a $2 billion annual advertising budget. There are 63 radio stations and 50 TV stations, two TV networks [Univision and Telemundo]  and cable TV network. Spanish media are also flourishing in publishing  magazines. Every sizable community of Hispanics has at least two Spanish radio and TV stations. San Diego has 25. Univision has launched a network for younger viewers. As of 2015 wireless carriers: T-Mobile, AT&T & SPRINT are offering digital chips for receiing FM on Smart Phones. It is interesting to note that in 2013 Fusion was launched for English speaking Hispanics.

Though Hispanics are found in all 50 States, the Networks recognize large audiences in LA 2 million, NY 1.4, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale .8, Houston .7, along with Chicago & Dallas/Ft Worth .5 each.

 In Puerto Rico there is the Miracle Satellite Network. Melvin Rivera, the chairman of the Hispanic Broadcasters Committee of the National Religious Broadcasters notes that there is a growing number of Hispanic radio stations in North America. 

The Hispanic population doubled in the 90’s and are rapidly becoming a "visible minority" as they agitate for civil rights like those recently gained by blacks, and for nationwide exposure through "freedom flotillas" and "air lifts" of new arrivals. Most Americans, especially evangelical Americans, seem to be only vaguely aware of the large and widespread Hispanic presence. They are clearly a definable minority who have refused to be absorbed into the greater society, most of whom continue to subsist in the inner sanctums of most large cities. By and large they have been neglected by their own espoused Roman Catholic church and more particularly by the evangelical church. In the opinion of Luis Palau, a well-known Latin American evangelist, they are largely unevangelized. That is attested by the fact that only 15 percent are members of Protestant churches, which is a smaller percentage than any country in Latin America. Bernardo Salcedo of DAWN  observes that perhaps 10 percent are evangelical. 

Hispanics are a heterogeneous people comprised of two dozen ethnic groups having come from 26 countries over a long period of time. That we might better understand their spiritual plight, let us examine (1) their history, (2) their location, (3) the migrant, (4) the social situation, (5) their spiritual condition, and (6) missionary activity among them.

B.                 HISTORICAL OVERVIEW

Spanish Americans have had a long and colorful history in this hemisphere. The Spanish conquistadors destroyed the illustrious Indian empires of the Incas of Peru and the Aztecs of Mexico. Spain's explorers based in the West Indies, the nursery of Spanish culture in the western hemisphere, laid claim to most of the lands north of Portugal's Brazilian heartland. In the early 1500s Ponce de Leon discovered and named La Florida. Only a few years later California was discovered, named, and populated by the Spanish from Cortes's capital in Mexico. By 1610 they had also founded Santa Fe, New Mexico. In the late sixteenth century Spanish landowners cleared the land in the South from the East to the West Coasts. They planted seed grains, fruit trees, cotton, and introduced live stock that transformed the land and the life-style of the inhabitants. Much of that was accomplished by slave labor.

The laborers they pressed into service were the Native Americans readily available. From the first the key to Spanish productivity was the use of native labor. The horse, gun, and the wheeled vehicle provided physical power to dominate, and there was absolute authority in the faith that Christianity was the one true religion, which it was the European's duty and destiny to bring all mankind.

 They not only taught the Indians manual skills, that is, silver, gold, and iron work, carding and weaving wool, but also sought to enculturate them with European language, customs, and Roman Catholicism. All of the Indians did not take kindly to the "forced labor, destruction of traditional customs and religion and the extortion of direct tribute." In the Santa Fe territory they revolted and drove out the Spanish. However, permanent settlements were established from coast to coast by 1776 in Florida, the Carolinas, Louisiana, the four southwestern states, and California.

 Intermarriage with the mesa-dwelling Indians, the Pueblos, Zunis, Hopis, and Pimas created a new cultural-racial group of mestizos that established a pattern followed throughout the centuries to the present. The mestizo was resentful of both parent cultures and was misunderstood by them. Living in constant fear of the attacks of the nomadic tribes of Indians such as the Apaches, Navajo, and the Comanches, the mestizo nevertheless became the landowner of the Southwest. Through the Spanish missions the sedentary Indians were Romanized, but the nomadic Indians continued in their old religious ways. Thus, the history of the American Indian is intricately connected with that of the Spanish. McWilliams suggests, "Both in New Mexico and in Arizona the Indian population should be regarded, in some respects, as part of the Hispanic element; for they are similar in racial background, language, and religion." It is interesting to note that 40 percent of the Indian population still lives in the southwestern states. So far-reaching was the Latin influence, it led Alford to conclude that the eighteenth century was the Hispanic century in the territory that was to become the United States. 

The following century brought the Anglo-Americans to develop the lands that Spain had dominated but never peopled. It was the Mexicans who flowed into the land of the cactus of our Southwest, which was contiguous and similar in terrain and climate. They were familiar with the climate and brought with them time-honored solutions to the many problems of the land. Without them the Anglos would never have been able to develop the land or the industries, for the Mexicans brought the original expertise to develop irrigation and mining. The Anglos then developed the massive industries using the Mexicans as cheap labor. 

War was inevitable in settling the problem of land ownership. Mexico, which included the lands from Texas to California, had won its freedom from Spain. Then Texas, in the famous battle of the Alamo of 1836, revolted against Mexico. The Treaty of Quadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 established the border; however, those 2,000 miles of border have been nebulous ever since. Because of that treaty the residents of 300 years became strangers and encroachers on their own lands; much as had been done to the Indians before them. Now three cultures vied for supremacy: Indian, Hispanic, and Anglo. 

The land east of Texas to the Mississippi and north to Canada also belonged to Spain. In 1800 she gave it to France, from whom we  bought the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Finally, the Gulf states and Florida were purchased from Spain in 1819. Thus was transferred the legal ownership of those southern lands, but this history is still very much part of the "La Raza," the thinking pattern of the modern Hispanic. 

C.                MEXICANS --  36 million [11% USA pop]  '16 [make up 63% of US Hispanic population of 57 M.] 

The nineteenth century provided opportunity for new waves of Hispanic migration. Gold was discovered in California by a Mexican. Other Mexicans introduced the expertise of quartz mining for gold as well as the skills for silver and copper mining. Cheap labor from Mexico was again abundantly available.  

It was the twentieth century, however, that provided the great job opportunities that tempted so many Hispanics to migrate. In fact, 44% of all immigrants in 2002 were Mexican. Mexicans were recruited to provide cheap and abundant labor for railroad construction and maintenance. Also, they were recruited for the Texan cotton fields and California sugar beet industry, as well as the Nevada mines. Then World War I spurred industries across the country to expand their output. Thus, it became an established practice to look to Mexico for abundant unskilled labor to fill jobs no one else wanted. Mexicans now make up two-thirds of the Hispanic population of the US, while Central and South Americans make up thirteen percent, Puerto Ricans make up 10 percent and Cubans make up four percent. 8.8 million Mexicans are born in the US., and make up 30% of all foreign born US. 

The clearing of the lands of the West created more jobs that were then translated into the digging of irrigation canals and the planting of great orchards and crops that would need harvesting. As laborers followed the ripening crops northward, great streams of migrant labor developed, thus creating a need for more seasonal unskilled labor. 

A US News and World Report article [Sept 23, 1996, pp34-45]entitled, ‘The New Jungle’, spotlights the widespread use of undocumented Mexicans in the meat packing industry. The authors indicate that there is a “kind of underground railroad” stretching from rural Mexico to dozens of meatpacking plants scattered across 16 states from coast to coast. They suggest that the companies pay middlemen to recruit workers in Mexico to maintain a steady flow of workers because the turnover can run as high as 70% per year on the dangerous, low-paying jobs paying $7.00 to $10.00 per hour.

There are 220 packing plants in Iowa and Nebraska, where it is estimated that 25% of the workers are illegal. That translates into 12,000 illegal aliens in those two states far from the border. The 10 top beef packing states are: KS, NB, TX, CO, IO, WI, MN, PA, and WA. The 10 top pork packing states are: IO, IL, MN, NC, SD, NB, VA, IN, KY and PA. This information gives some indication as to where ministries should be targeted. 

Although legal channels had been developed to allow Mexicans to enter, it was easier to bypass the ambiguities of the immigration laws. While officials "looked the other way," thousands of Mexicans were brought in illegally as undocumented workers. Thus a pattern was established that allowed "wetbacks" to clandestinely enter the United States--a pattern that has continued to the present. It is variously estimated that there are more than 11,000,000 illegals residing here, although the bureau of Immigration and Naturalization Service [INS] estimates there are 3.4 million. Only a million a year are caught and deported, but many are back on the job a few days later. The 2000-mile Mexican border is said to be the most crossed international boundary on earth as nearly one-tenth of Mexico's population oscillates across it. Mexicans constitute 67 percent of the Hispanics in the United States. Seven states receive 86% of the undocumented: California, Florida, Texas, New York, Illinois, Arizona, and New Jersey. The largest problems these states face involve: education, incarceration and Medicaid emergency medical services. Even the undocumented pay state income tax, state sales tax and property taxes. In 1990, one in four Latinos was poor and a significant number lived in extreme poverty. [See chapter 20 Mexico]

ILLEGALS---in 2006, mass demonstrations of 500,000 protestors waving Mexican flags, with signs in Spanish, demanding rights for illegals who want to be legal, but not citizens, dominated the news for weeks. The fact is, protesting is legal for citizens, but not non-citizens. They want the best of both worlds, the ability to freely flow back and forth across the border and dual citizenship. Jobs here offer better paying jobs, but they don't want the responsibilities that go along with citizenship. They want to drive cars and vote, but not support the programs citizenship require. Even with all the hype, they are willing to work for less and cause unemployment problems for unskilled citizens. It is also worthy of note that 27% of all inmates in federal prisons are illegals. Somehow business interests and politics seem to turn the heads of those who should have the best interests of the country at heart. No spin of calling an illegal alien an 'undocumented' really tells the truth. Employers must be required to determine the citizenship of those they hire. Those who are allowed to come in on temporary status must be given ID for employment and driver's licenses. Da!

The Obama years [2008-16] administration clearly wanted open borders and did little to close the Mexican border. Sanctuary Cities were established which in effect allowed officials not to enforce the federal law to deport illegal alliens. Even when criminals were deported too many times they were back throuigh the pourous boder. Many illegals were given welfare checks and legal documents. It was widely reported that the current adminstration was fully aware that most of the Mexicans voted for a certain party.

D.                CUBANS –2 million [make up 4 percent of US Hispanic population]

Cubans began coming to the United States in large numbers to escape Castro's Communist paradise in 1959. Alford observes that they came with different needs and aspirations: The Cuban immigrants were very different from any Spanish-speaking group that had preceded them. English was already a fluent second language for most of them. Among the refugees were doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers and successful businessmen, most of whom were...more affluent...or independent professionals. 

Although professionals had to validate their credentials, eventually they were absorbed into the greater society. Businessmen reestablished themselves in small businesses with some difficulty, for they were destitute after leaving their home island. Even so, “thousands of Cuban businesses and more than one & half a million Cuban people are purchasing in Miami stores. In New York  more than 10,000

Not all 2,000,000 Cubans came with the idea of staying. Many dreamed of the day when their country would again be free. Some joined revolutionary movements that spontaneously smoldered in the Floridian cradle of Cuban independence. Abortive attempts have dissipated much of that dream. Many were encouraged to relocate to Califirnia 92 M, Spanish Harlem of New York City 73 M, New Jersey 90 & Texas 59 M. Few have any interest in Christianity. Four percent of the Hispanics in the United States are Cuban, and half of all Cubans stateside live in Florida. Southern Florida received thousands of Cubans who established themselves in the tobacco industry. 

Businesses--from grocery stores to banks--are owned by Spanish Americans.

In 1980 the ‘Freedom Flotilla’ brought more than 125,000 refugees, raising the total number of Cubans in the United States to over a million in 1995. All were looking for a new start in life, but for the most it has been a long, hard struggle. They soon discover that unskilled jobs are becoming less available and that their lot is the ghettoes of the major cities. However, most apply for citizenship and then send for relatives who can legally come to live with them. 

2016 with the normalizing of relations by President Obama, will have profound influence on migration it appears.

E.                 PUERTO RICANS 5.4Million-- [make up 9% of US Hispanic population, 1.5% US pop]

Puerto Ricans have found it easy to cross the 1,000 miles of water separating their island from Florida. More than 5,400,000 have entered and many have stayed on in Spanish Harlem of New York City. As citizens they are free to come and go at will, and many take advantage of cheap flights. On the island there are some 3,400.000.

Puerto Ricans live primarily in the cities of the north east, such as NYC with 900,000, which is 24% of the city. Cities in northern New Jersey host 320,000 while cities in Connecticut and Massachusetts each host about 150,000.

F.                 CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICANS, Caribbeans -- [make up 17% of US Hispanic population]

It is estimated that 35,000,000 Central and South Americans [excluding Mexicans] have come to the United States. In 1985, 500,000 El Salvadorians fled to Los Angeles. In New York City alone 25,000 Uruguayans have overstayed their visitor's visas. One hundred thousand Colombians live in New York City and 150,000 live in Miami.

                             El Salvadore  500,000 live in LA area and have spread over the country in most states. Many are illegals and have formed gangs to compete in society, such as Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13. They are well trained in guerrilla warfare and numb to brutality, learned back home in civil war. Their numbers are estimated to be some 10,000.                                                                      


Hispanics have tended to concentrate in the areas surrounding the natural points of entry--New York City, Florida, and the border from Texas to California. The Mexicans have fanned out in what McWilliams calls the "borderlands," where from 60 to 80 percent of all Hispanics live in a band 150 miles deep, running parallel to the border, from Los Angeles to the Gulf of Mexico. There they are transforming the Southwest into "Mexico USA," which Griffin Smith, Jr., calls a "Nation within a Nation." California, and Texas are home for more than half of Hispanics, primarily Mexican. 

The second largest Hispanic concentration is in the Northeast, where 69% of Puerto Ricans entering at New York City move northward to Boston and southward to New Jersey.  

South Florida is visited by 13,000,000 foreigners each year, most of whom are Hispanic. One hundred multinational companies maintain Latin American headquarters there. The president of Ecuador has referred to Miami as the "capital of Latin America." By 2011 Miami city was 65 percent Hispanic and Dade county was 49% Hispanic. The state of Florida is 22% Hispanic. 

It is significant to note that in recent years, 40 percent of the population growth of the United States occurred in California, Texas, and Florida, where there are heavy concentrations of Hispanics. However, the Pacific Northwest also has concentrations of Hispanics. The state of Washington in 2003 has 40,000 who speak Spanish as their first language. Many smaller communities in the eastern part of the state have 50% or greater Hispanic population. The Hispanic population of Oregon state is now 6.8% of the population. 

Hispanics are essentially an urban people, because 90 percent (1994) of them live primarily in the central city of every major metropolitan area of the country. The largest concentration live in Los Angeles [9 million], where 5,800,000 Hispanics have created the second largest Mexican city in the world. New York City [7 million] has the second largest concentration with 4,300,000, predominantly Puerto Ricans. It is said that there are 2,000 Hispanic churches serving 4.2 million Hispanics living in NY-NJ metropolitan area [19.5 million]. Miami has 700,000 Cubans. Chicago [2.8 million] is 20% Hispanic. San Antonio, one million population is 56 percent Hispanic. 

Most states have at least one county with several thousand Hispanic residents. Several states have counties with growing Hispanic concentrations such as Los Angeles County, California. It is already 38 percent Hispanic and predicted to be 50 percent by the year 2000. California has 10 counties which are more than a third Hispanic. Other counties in the southwestern states are now 80 percent or more Hispanic. Dade County, Florida, [2,000,000 is 50%] is predicted to be 65 percent Hispanic by the year 2011. New Orleans, Louisiana is now the center for Central American immigration. In 1994 there were 93,000 Hispanics in the state, two-thirds being from Central and South America. New Orleans hosts about half the state’s Hispanics. 

Spanish is the preferred language of over 17.3 million Americans, which is a 50% increase in the last 10 years. In fact, Spanish is the prevailing language in 39 states where other than English is spoken in the home. 

The U S Department of Commerce publication number CP-S-1-2, entitled Detailed Ancestry Groups for States, lists statistics for emigrees from some 20 different Spanish speaking countries and the states in which they reside.

H.                    THE MIGRANT -- 1 - 2.5 Million

Migrant workers, one to three million disenfranchised Americans, are basically a little known, though necessary segment of agricultural America. Like slaves through the ages, they are a source of cheap labor. It is estimated that eighty percent of our farmhands are foreign-born & half million under age 18. Their jobs are unskilled and seasonal; therefore, they must migrate with the ripening harvests along three major migrant streams. Federal government publications delineate these as follows:

1.                  Major migrant streams.

There are three basic migratory streams with some off-shoots from the main streams. Each stream is different in its demographic and social characteristics. 

(a) The major stream is comprised of Texas-Mexican family groups who live mostly in south Texas and start their Northward trek in April or May. In past years the general movement was into the Texas Panhandle, western Oklahoma, and Colorado where the labor stream splits. Some crews go into Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington while the majority swing east to North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio. Then they go back south working in Indiana, Illinois, Arkansas, returning to south Texas for winter. 

(b) The next largest stream moves along the Atlantic Coast. Most of these migrants winter in Florida working in vegetables and citrus. They are predominately black citizens born and raised in the Southeast. They are not as family oriented as the Texas-Mexican American, speak English, and travel in crews. They leave Florida to work in the cultivation and harvest of fruits and vegetables in Georgia and North Carolina, eastern counties of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and as far north as upper New York State. 

(c) The third movement of migrants occurs mostly within the boundaries of California. Most migrant workers of recent years in California live in the state and follow the crops around the state. Many have almost year-round employment. They are mostly Mexican-American, with some Anglos and Orientals. 

Although most states had at least one county with 100 or more migrant workers, ten states use over two-thirds of all migrants; with California, Texas, Florida, and Michigan as the top four users. 

The state of California has at least 1,000 camps, ranging in size from 100 to 1,000. Frequently the California migrant never leaves the state. The heaviest suppliers of migrants are Texas and Florida. However, a few foreign workers are legally admitted on a temporary basis to do seasonal work. They are from Canada, India, Britain, West India and Mexico. Uncle Sam has become greatly concerned about the "national disgrace" of the migrant families who live at the bottom of the socio-economic and working under conditions unacceptable to the other Americans. 

He has enacted numerous federal programs such as: National Migrant Worker Program. This program assists migrants and their families to settle out of the migrant stream. The migrant worker is given basic education, vocational training, and supportive services (including financial assistance) to help him develop marketable job skills that will enable him to secure stable, year-round employment, either in his home-base area or in states along the migrant stream. The program also includes staff training, research, and experimentation with bilingual skill training and basic education to find the best ways to help migrants. 

But all of those programs have only scratched the surface socially and have done little economically about the average income of $2,400 (1994) except to price the migrant out of the market in favor of mechanization. The number of migrants has dropped from 12 percent of the hired farm labor to 7 percent. In other words, the number of migrants has dropped by nearly 50 percent. 

Who are these approximately 4,000,000 Americans? The migrant may be white Appalachian, Black, Indian, Oriental, Mexican, Mexican American, Puerto Rican, Canadian, Cuban, or Jamaican. He may work as part of a crew or "freewheel." He may have a second job that is also seasonal. Because of his mobility he seldom votes, and his children usually have little or "broken" education. These urchins are called America's "most forgotten disinherited, educationally deprived youth." Eighty percent drop out of school. 

About 40 percent of migrants are Mexican, and therefore speak Spanish and broken English. They are Roman Catholic in name only. 

Because of the seasonal employment they work only about one-third of the year and have a life expectancy of forty-nine years. The infant mortality rate is 125 percent higher than the national average. They are notoriously poor managers of money and given to alcohol. Many are now receiving relief money. 

Migrants form a distinct subculture and tend to be family clannish. All members of the family work together in the fields. They also tend to be authoritative and have a limited view of the world. They see things only with relation to themselves; right and wrong depends on their own experiences. They find it difficult to accept responsibility for their position in life. 

Whereas the man may be nominally the head of the household, the woman often makes the decisions. Among the blacks, the grandmother still plays the dominant role. Divorce, separation, common-law marriages, and unwed parenthood are still common. 

Mexicans live in the extended family structure in colonies. Work crews may be one "family." The woman is usually the center of the home and works in the field with the clan. Babies are always welcomed and wanted, and "toted" to the fields. 

This life-style gives rise to a persistent feeling of inadequacy. There is a lack of planning for the future. The migrant's work rarely contributes to a feeling of self-fulfillment or human worth. Money is seen as the sole reward of work. 

Some are now using federal programs to break out of the migrant life for a sedentary life. Henry Strube, missionary with Missionary Gospel Fellowship ministers to migrants in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, says, “They need to be reached with the gospel, but their mobility makes it all the more difficult to do more than personal work among them”. 

The Federal government no longer tracks migrant statistics; therefore, most statistics now available are from the state universities in states where migrant farm workers are laboring. It is also to be noted that very few mission organizations are seeking to bring the Gospel to the migrant.


It is exceedingly difficult to discuss the Hispanic social milieu because of the differences in multinational Hispanic peoples. The term Hispanic “encapsulates people from many different Spanish-language and cultural backgrounds”. Those from South or Central America would rather be called ‘Latinos’, while a mixed audience might be called ‘Latin Americans’. Puertoricans, Dominicans and Cubans might prefer ‘Caribeños’. Those from Puerto Rico refer to themselves as ‘boricuas’. However, the term ‘Latino’ is probably more acceptable. Socially what is true of the Cuban may not be of the Puerto Rican or Mexican. However, because Mexicans make up at least 60 percent of the documented Hispanic population and most of the undocumented, their overwhelming presence tends to speak for all. Also, federal statistics speak of all Hispanics as one unit. It may be generalized that their median age is nine years less than the Anglo. Moreover, most Hispanics work in less skilled trades, but are not at the bottom of the economic ladder. In 1992 when the median family income for whites was $30,000, the Spanish income was $22,000 and the black income was $18,000. While 60 percent made less than $12,000, 27 percent made less than minimum wage.

The lack of skills coupled with functional illiteracy in English tend to cause the Hispanic to gravitate to unskilled and temporary jobs. The migrant is a prime example. He competes with mechanized equipment in an ever dwindling market and moves about following the crops. As better living conditions were forced by the government and better wages were won by unionization, mechanical equipment was developed effectively eliminating thousands of jobs. Central city housing is all that many can afford on the low-paying jobs available. In Miami it is estimated that one-half of all hotel staff and three out of five service station attendants are Cuban. Still there is open hostility toward Hispanics for taking already scarce jobs. In Los Angeles it is said that if all the illegals were deported, "the area's hotel, restaurant, and garment industries would be paralyzed." In Texas some farm workers "live in abject poverty in jerry-built cubicles of concrete blocks that lack running water." Griffin Smith, Jr., goes on to report that "in Hidalgo County's metropolitan area, the per capita income is only $3,859, one of the lowest in the country. Its unemployment rate is 12 percent. It is the bottom rung of America's economic ladder." 

Education is the biggest problem they face. Evangelical Missions Information Service reported that Hispanics are at present the most undereducated Americans. Roger Luna summarizes:

Most Mexicans who came to the United States were from the poorest and most uneducated classes of Mexico. [There are 18 million poor in Mexico. Another seven million are squatters around Mexico City with a population of 23 million.] Then, to make matters worse, schools serving the Mexican-American community have traditionally been substandard. The result is that at present of the Mexican-American population twenty-five years or older, only 2% ever started college, and only 1.6% ever graduated. Of this group, only 28% ever graduated from high school. While the situation has improved...the effects of the depressed educational scene...are still being felt. 

Tragically, 45% of Hispanic youth drop out of school, because they think they can make it without English. The Hispanic, whose median age is 23, is seeking to find himself while lost in an uncaring society. He is asking, "How do I fit into American society?" Griffin Smith, Jr., in trying to define who a Mexican-American is, was told that the Mexican-American is a "citizen of the United States whose family originated in Mexico. Beyond that, it's a state of mind." Another said, "It is a feeling of straddling two different worlds." There seems to be a "brotherhood forged by suffering and a perception of injustice." That camaraderie is expressed in the words ‘La Raza.’ 

There is a growing pride in being a Mestizo, which is defined as being "Indian in blood and soul and Spanish in language and civilization." [Mestizos make up 61% of the population of Mexico.] Thus, there is not only an acceptance of what he is but also the real danger of developing a kind of master race attitude. Jose Vasconcelos verbalized that in his book The Cosmic Race. In it he theorizes that the Iberoamerican is superior because he is a mixture of previous world civilizations. In his state of feeling rejected, such a conjecture is very appealing. He is becoming a fifth race. 

On a United States scale, the Hispanic's live in three distinct and non-mixable socio-economic levels which are inferior, but when compared with the conditions he left behind, he is worlds ahead. He has liberties only dreamed of. He is tasting victories won through organized labor. In short, he is becoming smitten with materialism. Therefore, in October of 1996, 30,000 made their first march on Washing, DC, for Hispanic rights and to protest recently passed immigration and welfare bills placing restrictions on legal and especially illegal aliens. It was a reminder that Hispanics are the largest minority and they need to unite to become a part of mainstream America. 

The Hispanic is united by a veneer of Roman Catholicism, the Spanish language, even with its variants, a strong extended family, close long-term relationships and a respect for God. 

The language question remains unsolved. Some states are instituting bilingual programs in the early grades. That may help in a time of transition, but the Hispanic must be bilingual if he insists on maintaining his Spanish in a predominantly English-speaking society. By the second and third generations English is often the major language. Even so, evangelicals will need to assess the local situation, for as Eli Garza, the dynamic leader of the Baptist work in Detroit has discovered, he must use both English and Spanish in his church to effectively communicate with his congregation. 

There is a growing use of Spanish in the mass media. There are hundreds of Spanish radio stations and dozens of television channels and newspapers.


Most Latins are Roman Catholic in name at least. Statistically they make up 25 percent of the United States Catholic church, but in the Southwest the figure is 65 percent. Yet, most Hispanics do not attend church because they were never made to feel welcome. In some places signs were placed that read, "Mexicans Not Allowed," or, "Mexicans restricted to the Back Four rows." Rather generally they were taken for granted for they were already Catholic. Alert priests are noting that Hispanics have always been second-class citizens in the Catholic church and the "Chicanos remain the most neglected and forgotten people in the church." Not only are 80 percent not attending the Catholic church, they are defecting as one observer reports" to the Protestants, the Evangelicals about 20%, and the Jehovah's Witnesses, among others." It is worthy to note that Jehovah's Witnesses claim some 45,000 Hispanics and the Mormons 50,000. The National Council of Churches indicates that 20 percent are members of their denominations. 

The Pentecostal and charismatic movements are particularly appealing to the Hispanic, for they appeal to his open, warm feeling and expressive personality. Ramirez articulates this when she says, "Puerto Ricans, especially the lower classes who are a people apt to express openly their feelings and emotions, found in Pentecostalism an adequate vehicle for expressing and communicating their religious feelings and convictions." Joseph Fitzpatrick in his book, ‘The Puerto Rican American’ observes that the Puerto Rican religious experience is more a religion of the community than of the organized church. 

Another Hispanic, when asked, What does being a Pentecostal mean to you? replied, "It's what binds much of us poor Puertorriquenos together. It gives us strength to live in these conditions. It's like being part of a familia that is together in Christo and we help each other with the little materials we may possess." The Pentecostal church tends to provide better support for a person’s self-esteem and personal worth. They also use the national musical instruments with which the people are familiar. 

In a similar vein the Charismatic Catholic movement is drawing Hispanics into active participation within that church because it is responding to their felt needs. Services are in Spanish, with nationals leading. 

Would it not be expected that some would bring with them cultic forms of religion? Wide spread throughout the Caribbean Islands, wherever the Africans were brought in and a veneer of Roman Catholicism was superimposed, a synthesis evolved. In Haiti this is variously called Vodun or Voodoo; in Trinidad, Shango; and in Cuba, Santerra. Miami residents report that a variety of Voodoo rituals regularly take place primarily in a fifty-square-block area known as "Little Haiti." One Santerian cult "is believed to have 10,000 Cuban-American members, making it stronger in Miami than it ever was in Cuba." The ritual includes offering animal sacrifices whose carcasses are then tossed into a river. 

If the evangelical church is to effectively communicate the gospel to Hispanics, it will have to awaken to the fact that these people exist and recognize a God-given responsibility to do something about it. One mission leader charges that "they are found living next to a Bible-preaching church or next door to a born-again Christian family, yet these people live as heathen in a pagan land. Pastors, local churches, and Christian workers do not go after them." One leader estimated that not more than 20,000 of the 3,400,000 in Los Angeles are born again. Another, Al Bergfalk of Chicago, estimates there are not more than 20,000 among the 550,000 in his city. 

An aroused church will then need to ask itself this question posed by a Puerto Rican: "How can our religious needs be met by a middle class and white church institution?" It is a relevant question, for Piri Thomas goes on to charge, "The trouble with the outside people from nice well-to-do churches who sincerely send people to work among us armed with all the knowledge of the Bible is that he has a complete lack of understanding about what makes us tick." 

What does make them tick? All we have reviewed above is part of the answer. They must be seen as those drawing from three worlds. As Mestizos they combine Indian, Spanish, and Anglo heritage and are proud of it. They live in substandard ghettoes, where each community will be either non-Hispano or multi-Hispano, that is, having several Latin American groups. Each sub-group will have its own special needs. For instance, the Mexicans came here to survive economically; the Puerto Ricans came from an island that has spawned Latin American Pentecostalism, Spiritism, and syncretistic cults. They are "not so much a religious people as a people in search of religion." Chicanos, on the other hand, are nonreligious, having little interest in the church. 

The multicultural heritage of the Hispanics will of necessity need to be considered in establishing churches that will be meaningful to them. Elizondo suggests that their "Indian and African roots...give a different rhythm to their religious practices." Caesar Chavez, a Mexican, observes, "Our mentality is quite different from the Anglo-Saxon mentality." That may be seen in the fact that the Mexican is one who often stands aloof, for "between reality and his person stands a wall of impassivity and distance, which although visible is still impenetrable. The Mexican is always distant, distant from the world and from others. Distant also from himself." He has an identity crisis. 

Hispanics have been spiritually abused and neglected. Their former religious leaders have promised and not delivered. They are educationally deprived and economically exploited. They are citizens needed, but only tolerated. They are angry at themselves and the world and now demand their rights and get them through power, as Caesar Chavez has proved. However, the blacks are angry at Hispanics for taking their jobs. Bilingual education and official offices (although promised) are only partially available. Even the Catholic church tried unsuccessfully to "Americanize" them. Thus, they turn to radical forms of politics, cults, or distorted forms of Christianity. It should be obvious then that we must help Hispanics find the truth, to establish a church and Christian community to train their own leaders with whom they will feel comfortable.


Missionary activity among the Hispanics is widespread, but uncoordinated and scattered. Although most denominations have some Hispanic ministry, it has been limited primarily to the Baptists and the Pentecostals. The Southern Baptists have established 1,400 churches, most of which have Hispanic pastors, serving a Christian community of 150,000. The American Baptists report 300 congregations. The Assemblies of God list over 700 groups, while the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) has a membership of 10,000 and the Church of the Nazarene claim eighty-nine churches. The Missouri Synod Lutheran churches have developed thirty-nine congregations with 3,800 members. There are seventy-three congregations affiliated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. 

Few independent evangelical churches are making a major impact, for the evangelical church has no centralized machinery with which to survey the need, to recruit men and money, or to coordinate efforts in church planting. Perhaps it should be noted that the early church did not have too much church planting vision, but evidently there was a widespread conviction that everyone should hear! Thus, responsibility must be assumed by those churches and pastors who are near enough to assess the need and respond to it. Also, mission societies must survey the needs and alert the larger evangelical community about the need through their journals, itinerating missionaries and executives, and the Evangelical Mission Information Service. It is generally conceded that the majority of Hispanics are not being touched by the gospel. 

Some pastors have engaged Spanish-speaking men to develop a Hispanic congregation that uses the same facilities as the Anglo church. Others have supported home mission organizations that have a burden to reach the Hispanics of the United States. Some missions give direction to church planting operations in several communities, thus accumulating expertise from their collective activities. 

One example is the First Baptist Church of Flushing, New York. This once white church is now a multi-congregation church of 1,000 members which has engaged several qualified men equipped to evangelize the Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and Russian communities surrounding the church. They will add other ethnic pastors as needed. These special language groups each meet throughout the day in their own meetings in the same church facilities and then meet corporately for the evening service. 

The Conservative Baptist Association has a number of churches in the five boroughs of New York City seeking to service the Hispanic and Haitian communities. 

Inner City Impact, a mission in the Humboldt Park region of Chicago, has found it effective to send workers into the community to work with the youth. They have youth meetings in their own facilities and a summer camping program. Out of their ministry has come a Puerto Rican church, the Good News Bible Church. 

A group of Spanish pastors in the Chicago area has formed an association called the Chicago Area Spanish Evangelism (CASE). It is their desire to coordinate the efforts of the 200 Spanish language churches who are seeking to evangelize Chicago's Hispanics. The efforts include Spanish-language evangelistic crusades. 

Spanish-language radio programs, such as those carried over station WMBI in Chicago all day Saturdays; KVMV in McAllen, Texas; KNCB in Houston, Texas; and KMAX in Pasadena, California, are very effective and need to be instituted across the country. Programs are produced by the Spanish World Gospel Mission, the Spanish "Back to the Bible," the "Radio Bible Class," the "Back to God Hour," the "Lutheran Hour," the "Mennonite Hour," the Southern Baptists, the Plymouth Brethren, the Baptist General Conference, and Luis Palau, who tapes his full-length crusade messages. "Back to the Bible" Spanish program, "La Biblia Dice," is aired over twenty stations.  

Jaime Shedd, coordinator de programicion Hispana, estimates that 30 percent of Chicago's Hispanics prefer English to Spanish, but he also notes that Spanish is the language of the heart; therefore, the need is great for increasing Spanish broadcasts. As a follow-up program, the telephone is proving to be a more effective spiritual counseling tool than correspondence, for it is quick and personal. 

In the Los Angeles area 125 churches joined together and invited Latin American evangelist Luis Palau to hold an evangelistic crusade. This first Spanish-language crusade in the area was heralded as very effective and to be repeated in other cities. 

There are at least 100 Cuban churches in the Miami area. 

The Pocket Testament League sent its sound trucks and evangelistic literature teams into the inner cities. They say it is one of their most vigorous and vital ministries. Others have found that a Spanish-language bookstore ministry is very effective. Numerous publishers make Spanish-language literature and Bibles available. 

There is a desperate need to reach the Hispanic community; therefore, in 1995,  Bernardo Salcedo of Discipling A Whole Nation [DAWN] indicates they are sponsoring ‘Discipling Hispanics in North America’ conferences in strategic locations across the US to encourage the Protestant Hispanic pastors of the estimated 10,000 to 20,000 Hispanic churches to plant another 20,000 Hispanic churches in the next 10 years. Bernardo hopes to mobilize the estimated 3% of Hispanics who are evangelicals [3 million] in this important church planting project. If there are 20,000 churches, the average church would be 150, which is larger than the average Anglo church. The results of these conferences should give a more accurate understanding of the number of Hispanic churches and the size of the Hispanic Protestant community. 

 Although numerous storefront churches have sprung up, most of them are so small, they cannot afford a full-time pastor; therefore, lay preachers holding secular jobs and bi-vocationals are filling a void. There is a desperate need for a trained clergy among Hispanic congregations. Bible college and seminary programs are needed, with funding to make them available. Pastor Alex Montoya of First Fundamental Bible Church of Monterey Park, California, is seeking to develop a graduate program at Talbot Seminary for Hispanic pastors. Moody Bible Institute has an ethnic studies program to prepare missionaries for such service. McCormick Seminary has an urban ministries program as does the Wheaton Graduate School. Fuller Seminary, Northern Baptist Seminary, La Puente Bible Institute, and Rio Grande Bible Institute, among others, also seek to prepare men for Hispanic ministries. The total number of theological students in Hispanic studies in 1978 was 681. Today the number has improved dramatically. 

The words of William Conard are a stirring challenge:

"This presents a challenge to returned missionaries, Spanish-speaking Christians, and the whole US evangelical church. Missionary candidates with health problems used to be turned down by candidate boards; now these people could serve the US Hispanic community and still get good medical treatment."

"The need is totally obvious. A positive response must come forth in the US evangelical church. These Hispanics smile, then say, "Hola, amigo. Que tal? Que Dices?--Hi, friend, What do you say?" 

The Henry Tobelmann family is an example of a positive response to that question. After thirty-two years of service in Chile with Gospel Mission of South America, health did not permit them to return. Yet, they were challenged to minister to the 2,000,000 Hispanics in metropolitan New York City. 

In Newark, New Jersey, they were led to the Evangelistic Committee of Newark, which was willing to form a Spanish department called HUEP representing Hudson, Union, Essex, and Passaic counties. Some thirty churches backed that ministry, which included open air evangelism using an audio-visually equipped van, sixty to seventy hours of radio programs aired weekly over WXWZ, and Bible correspondence courses from Source of Light Mission, which by 1980 averaged 7,000 lessons a year. 

As the ministry grew, a need was felt for an interdenominational mission with the purpose of reaching the Latins of the metropolitan New York area. Henry Tobelmann writes, "We prayed and approached some missions, but they were not ready to assume a 'home missions' program; therefore we felt led to establish the Latin Evangelical Outreach in 1976, called LEO." 

By 1981, Charles Tobleman, son of the founder, computerized the ministry which allowed the correspondence ministry to expand to nearly 12,000 lessons. As the vision grew, Charles developed a computer program called EdNet which enabled numerous churches in metropolitan Newark/Patterson to network together ‘to give everyone an opportunity to study the Word of God in their own home, at their own pace and in their own language’.

Pastor J. Allen Nicholson of First Baptist Church, Hillside, New Jersey, appreciated the ministry and wrote in a church letter, What would you do if some morning you woke and found yourself on a mission field? Well, that is just about what is happening in many urban areas of New Jersey. I daily meet folk whose language I don't comprehend, whose culture is far different and who came from some country where we have missionaries. It seems the mission field is coming to us. That is why as a pastor, I'm involved and thankful for the LEO. Henry and Ruth Tobelmann are doing a job I can't do. 

This should be the attitude of all concerned Christians--to find some way to reach all the peoples of our communities with the Gospel. 

The UFM Mexico is developing the Mexican National Mission to send Mexican nationals to Cuba as missionaries. What a novel idea. 


1. Montoya, Alex, Hispanic Ministry In North America. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987. Alex

    pastors the First Fundamental Bible Church in Los Angeles, CA

2. Ortiz, Manuel, The Hispanic Challenge. Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993.

3. Latin America Mission in cooperation with the Metropolitan Fellowship of Churches, in 1987,

    conducted a ‘Community Research Project’ in which it contacted all churches in Dade county.

    This research is compiled into 12 study reports or study areas which reports, among other

    things,  the denomination, program and ethnic makeup of each church. LAM seeks to network

    churches and ethnic ministries in Dade county, Florida. Cost $15.00 per report.  Ph. 305-889-


4. Pugh Foundation research project on number of Hispanic churches in US.

5. Pan Dulce, quarterly newsletter, published by Navagators Hispanic Ministry, for those working

    among Hispanics. Armando Madrid, 754 N. Folrest Ave, Los Angeles, CA  90033

6. DAWN Ministries, 7899 Lexington Drive, Suite 200-B, Colorado Springs, CO 80920. Ph 719-

    548-7460 Fax. 719-548-7475.

7. Evangelical Hispanic Ministries Association [AMEN]   -- Bernard Salcedo of DAWN gave this


8. LOGOI--Ken Thompson

9. Hispanic Association of Bilingual Bicultural Ministries [HABBM]

10. Rio Grande Bible Institute, 4300 S. Business Hwy 281, Edinburg, TX 78539, Ph 956.380.8100    







Baptist General Conference World Missions-Home Mis











GENERAL CONFERENCE- Mennonite Central Ofc




























Mexican Christian Mission, Inc





MISSION TO NORTH AMERICA-Presbyterian Ch in Americ








SIM Int'nl