by Anita Hooley Yoder
Much of my research time is spent interviewing women, but I’ve also looked through many books, articles, and archived materials. Generally I find it much more interesting to talk to real people! But sometimes I come across a resource that I find incredibly helpful in providing context for this project. One of those resources is a new work (published in 2014) by Felipe Hinojosa called Latino Mennonites: Civil Rights, Faith, and Evangelical Culture.
Hinojosa devotes a whole chapter specifically to women (much more space than almost all the other conference or regional history books I’ve seen). Hinojosa describes how Latina Mennonites began organizing Spanish-language women’s conferences in the early 1970s. He notes that the Latinas rose to prominence at a time when the “multi-ethnic brotherhood” of African Americans and Latinos in the (“Old”) Mennonite Church was falling apart. The women’s gatherings helped maintain Latino culture and religious commitment, as well as providing opportunities for Latinas to preach, teach, sing, and pray together.
These conferences are still going strong, held every-other year under the name Conferencia Femenil Hispana Menonita. The most recent gathering took place this summer in Texas. I’m looking forward to a trip to Florida in November where I will get to talk with some women who attended this conference and other women from various backgrounds involved in Gulf States Mennonite Women. I encourage anyone who wants to know more about Latino—and Latina—Mennonites to check out Hinojosa’s excellent book.