"Mujerista" : Definition
To name oneself is one of the most powerful acts any human person can do. A name provides identification as well as being a conceptual framework, a point of reference, a mental construct used in thinking, understanding, and relating to persons, ideas, movements. Because of this Latina women living in the USA who are keenly aware of how sexism, ethnic prejudice and economic oppression subjugate them, use the term mujerista to refer to themselves and use mujerista theology to refer to the explanations of their faith and its role in their struggle for liberation.
A mujerista is someone who makes a preferential option for Latina women, for their struggle for liberation. Mujeristas struggle to liberate themselves not as individuals but as members of a Latino community. They work to build bridges among Latinas/os while denouncing sectarianism and divisionary tactics. Mujeristas understand that their task is to gather the hopes and expectations of the people about justice and peace. Mujeristas believe that in them, though not exclusively so, God chooses to once again lay claim to, to revindicate, the divine image and likeness made visible in Latinas. Mujeristas are called to gestate new women and new men--Latino people willing to work for the good of the people, knowing that such work requires the denunciation of all destructive sense of self-abnegation.
Mujerista theology, which includes both ethics and theology, is a liberative praxis: reflective action that has as its goal liberation. As a liberative praxis mujerista theology is a process of enablement for Latina women insisting on the development of a strong sense of moral agency, and clarifying the importance and value of who they are, what they think, and what they do. Second, as a liberative praxis, mujerista theology seeks to impact mainline theologies, the theologies which support what is normative in church and, to a large degree, in society.
Mujerista theology engages in this two-pronged liberative praxis first, by working to enable Latinas to understand the many oppressive structures that almost completely determines their daily lives. It enables them to understand that the goal of their struggle should be not to participate in and to benefit from these structures but to change them radically. In theological and religious language this means that mujerista theology helps Latinas to discover and affirm the presence of God in the midst of their communities and the revelation of God in their daily lives. Latinas must come to understand the reality of structural sin and find ways of combating it because it effectively hides God's ongoing revelation from them and from society at large.
Second, mujerista theology insists on and aids Latinas in defining their preferred future: What will a radically different society look like? What will be its values and norms? In theological and religious language this means that mujerista theology enables Latinas to understand the centrality of eschatology in the life of every Christian. Latinas' preferred future breaks into the present oppression they suffer in many different ways. They must recognize those eschatological glimpses, rejoice in them, and struggle to make those glimpses become their whole horizon.
Third, mujerista theology enables Latinas to understand how much they have already bought into the prevailing systems in society--including the religious systems--thus internalizing their own oppression. Mujerista theology helps Latinas to see that radical structural change cannot happen unless radical change takes place in each and every one of them. In theological and religious language this means that mujerista theology assists Latinas in the process of conversion, helping them to see the reality of sin in their lives. Further, it enables them to understand that to resign themselves to what others tell them is their lot and to accept suffering and self-effacement is not necessarily virtuous.
Other important elements of mujerista theology are the following. First, the source of mujerista theology is the lived-experience of Latinas, experience that they are conscious of and have reflected upon. Here mujerista theology follows St. Anselm's understanding of theology as faith seeking intellect: it is the faith of Latinas, which historically has proven to be a resource in their struggles for liberation, that is at the heart of mujerista theology. This does not preclude church teaching and traditions, or Biblical understandings. But neither does it preclude religious understandings and practices labeled "popular religiosity" which are mainly a mixture of Roman Catholicism and African religions. In Mujerista theology all of these religious-theological elements are looked at through the lens of Latinas' struggle for liberation. Second, mujerista theology is communal theology: the materials developed in this theology are gathered mostly during reflection sessions of groups of Latinas meeting for this purpose in different parts of the USA. Third, mujerista theology benefits from feminist and Latin American liberationist understandings but also adds two other elements: cultural critique of Latino culture as well as of the dominant culture in the USA, and denunciation of racism/ethnic prejudice.
The first publication dealing with mujerista theology--then called Hispanic Women's Liberation Theology--appeared in the USA in 1987. Necessarily then, because of its newness as well as due to the small number of Latina theologians at present, in 1994 mujerista theology is but a small daughter born of the hope of Latina women for their liberation and the liberation of all peoples.