The following comes from a March 23 Monterey Herald article by Karina Ioffee:
SAN JOSE — One of the most dramatic trends in American religion is the rapid growth of Latino evangelicals, many of whom are leaving a Catholic church that has long dominated religious life in their homelands.
Though the majority of American Latinos still identify as Catholic, the percentage has dropped from 67 percent in 2006 to about 59 percent in 2013, according to a Pew Research Center study released last year. Meanwhile, the number of Latinos who identify as Evangelical rose by more than a quarter — up from 14 percent in 2006 to 18 percent in 2013, making Latino evangelicals the fastest-growing religious group in the country.
Locally, Latinos who now call themselves Evanglicos say there are several reasons they’re happier at their new churches: being able to participate in spiritual practices, gatherings and festivities that connect to the cultural traditions of their home countries; hearing messages of hope that help them rise above hardships; and finding ways to become leaders as immigrants in a new land.
Also, faith is expressed through joyful, exuberant celebrations accompanied by lively music, and singing that are integral to their culture.
On a recent Sunday, Pedro Galvan, 33, paced in front of parishioners at Richmond’s Iglesia Dios Pentecostal, cracking jokes and throwing out Bible passages, sounding more like a motivational speaker and comedian than a pastor.
“God didn’t give you dreams so you could say, ‘OK, thanks.’ He gave them to you so you could go out there and accomplish them,” he shouted in Spanish as worshippers responded with whoops of “Amen” and “Hallelujah!”
Local Latinos who have migrated to Evangelical churches say they serve as a “second family”: people with whom they pray, do community service, barbecue and celebrate such milestones as baptisms and quinceaeras, gatherings common back home, but not necessarily in the United States, where individualism often trumps community.
According to the Pew study, 64 percent of Latino Evangelicals say they have received divine healing and revelation, and nearly 60 percent said they had seen spirits driven out of someone.
“Pentecostalism speaks to the tradition of supernatural phenomena within many Latinos’ world view and that’s definitely a point of attraction for many,” Calvillo said. “The tradition empowers the individual to engage in the spirit world in their own terms.”