How Our Lady of Guadalupe Became Lutheran: Latin American Migration and Religious Change

Luisa Feline Freier



International migration is initiating myriad processes of religious change from the level of individual conversion to the institutional transformation of religious structures and practices. An approach combining a transnational perspective and the concept of diaspora space facilitates the analysis of the different scales, agents, and actions involved in migration-caused religious change. The article analyzes the broadening of Lutheranism to incorporate Latino Catholic culture into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (elca) in Madison, Wisconsin. Under the leadership of their pastor, Latin American immigrants in Madison are agents redefining the understanding of the category Lutheran through the incorporation of popular Catholicism. Though strongly contested by the Roman Catholic Church, the elca accepts these processes due to its institutional interest in the recruitment of new Latino worshippers.


Las migraciones internacionales causan varios procesos de cambio religioso desde el nivel de la conversión individual hasta la transformación institucional de las morfologías religiosas. Para facilitar el análisis de las diferentes escalas, agentes y acciones relacionados con los procesos migratorios que resultan en el cambio religioso, este artículo sugiere la combinación de una perspectiva transnacional y del concepto de espacio diaspórico. Después de la discusión de este cuadro teórico, el artículo analiza la expansión de la morfología de la iglesia evangélica luterana en América en Madison, Wisconsin, para incorporar la cultura católica latina. Exigiendo la incorporación del catolicismo popular, inmigrantes latinoamericanos en Madison determinan la redefinición del significado de la categoría luterano bajo el liderazgo de su pastor. Aunque la iglesia católica romana rechaza estos procesos, la elca los acepta por su interés institucional en el reclutamiento de los feligreses inmigrantes latinoamericanos.

Keywords: Latin American migration; transnationalism; Lutheranism (elca); religious change; Midwest

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Date of receipt: August 13, 2008.

Date of acceptance: March 5, 2009.

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