In this spirit, I am reproducing a chapter from Enrique Armijo's M.A. thesis from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Enrique's thesis is based on fieldwork he completed with Inglesia Unida in Chapel Hill. The full citation for the except that follows is: Armijo, Enrique. 2000. Un Pueblo Nuevo: An Ethnography of a Hispanic Protestant Community of Faith. M.A. Thesis in Folklore University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
As you read, bear in mind that Armijo presents each of the paragraphs in the original Spanish text first, followed by the English translation.
The Story of María and José: Un Cuento de Navidad
The chapter that follows this conclusion is a reading, written by the youth of Iglesia Unida during a church camp in 1997. It tells of a pregnant Mexican woman named María, her Tijuanan boyfriend José, and their trip to North Carolina to find work and a place to live. As with the stories of many of the congregation members at Iglesia Unida, their journey is an eventful one; along the way their truck breaks down, they stay in a shelter, and they are visited by an angel. Like the other expressions of the church examined in this thesis, the story reveals how local and universal themes form a dialectic that leads to deeper understanding and articulates the informed convergence between life lived and faith felt.
In reading the story, I ask that the reader resist applying a strictly cultural lens of interpretation that can fog the deeper spiritual understandings that an example like this can provide. Like the songs, sermons, prayers, activism, and development discussed earlier in this thesis, the youths’ narrative shows not only how its themes are particular to the context at Iglesia Unida, but also how universal—when informed by the experiences of the members—these themes of spirit, struggle, and redemption truly are.
Enrique Armijo, M.A.
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
October 2000CHAPTER 8
Un Cuento de Navidad
A Christmas Story
written by the children and youth of Iglesia Unida
Una joven llamada María se iba a casar con su novio que se llamaba José. José, originario de Tiajuana, vivia en San Diego y tenía su Green Card. En San Diego no había trabajo, y José (o Pepe, como le dicen sus amigos) decidió venirse a Carolina del Norte y buscar trabajo y un lugar donde vivir. Como ya no iba a poder cruzar la frontera para ir a ver a María, le tuvieron que hablar a un coyote para que la hiciera cruzar a ella y se pudiera venir a Carolina también.
Mientras juntaban el dinero, se les apareció un ángel. El ángel le dijo a María: "Eres muy dichosa, María. Vas a tener un bebé, tu hijo va a salvar el mundo.
A young girl named María was engaged to a guy named José. José was originally from Tijuana, but lived in San Diego and had his Green Card. In San Diego there weren't any jobs, so José (whom his friends called Pepe) decided to come to North Carolina to look for work and a place to live. Since he wasn't going to be able to run across the border to visit María any more, they decided to find a "coyote," to get her across the border so she could come to North Carolina as well. 1
While they were trying to get the money together to pay the "coyote," an angel appeared to them. The angel told María, "You are blessed, María. You will have a baby, and your son will save the world."
Un día les avisaron que era buena fecha para cruzar la frontera. Cuando iban en camino, el carro en que iban se arrunió y les pidieron mas dinero para completar el viaje. Como no tenían dinero ni para la gasolina, se quedaron esperando de que la familia les mandara una ayudita y tuvieron que pasar la noche debajo de unos árboles por varios dias. Y a María ya estaba notándosele el embarazo.
One day, they were told it was a good time to cross the border. When they were already in route, the car in which they were traveling broke down and they were asked to pay more money to complete the trip. Since they didn't even have money for gas, they had to wait, sleeping under some trees for several days, until the family could send a little more help. Maria's pregnancy was already becoming obvious.
Por fin les llegó la ayudita que esperaban, pero cuando llegaron a Chapel Hill, no encontraron ni trabajo, ni donde alojarse. José salió varias veces a buscar trabajo, pero en algunos sitios, el guardia de "security" ni lo dejaba entrar a hablar con la gente que estaba dando empleo. Pensaron que podían quedarse en un parque, pero la policía los desalojó. Fueron a la iglesia, pero estaba cerrada; terminaron en el "Shelter," pero solo se podían quedar unos días. María tenía miedo de decirle a nadie que iba a tener un bebé. Tenía mideo de ir al hospital, porque no tenía papeles.
At last the help arrived, but when José and María arrived in Chapel Hill, they couldn't find work or a place to stay. José went out to find work several days, but in some places, "security" wouldn't even let him in to talk to those in charge of hiring. They had thought they could stay in a park, but the police told them they had to get out. They went to a church, but it was locked; they ended up in the shelter, but they knew they could only stay a few days. María was afraid to tell anybody she was pregnant. She was afraid to go to the hospital, because she didn't have her papers.
Y fué así como nació el bebé de José y María: Tocaron en muchas casas, pues no querían regresar al shelter y que los mandaran al hospital. Fueron a la casa de Pablo, y Mario Alberto, y otras familias conocidas, pero no había ni un rincón donde hacerles un lugarcito. Pasaron un par de noches en restaurantes y tiendas que habren 24 horas hasta que María ya no podía caminar más. Fue con gran alegría que recibieron la noticia de que una familia, que tiene una trailer pequeña, había movido a los niños al cuarto de los padres y les había acomodado un cuartitio. Y fue allí que nació el niñito, y lo acostaron en un cajón que rellenaron de ropita vieja.
And this is how José and María's baby was born: they knocked on many doors, because they didn't want to go to the shelter and get sent to the hospital. They went to Pablo's house and Mario Alberto's house and asked other families they knew, but nobody had any room to accommodate them. They spent a couple of nights in restaurants and stores that are open 24 hours, but at last María knew she couldn't walk any more. It was with great joy that they heard a family who lived in a small trailer had moved the children into the parent's room and had agreed to let them have the small room. And that is where the baby was born. They padded a drawer with old clothes and made him a little bed there.
Cuando nació el bebé, toda la gente del area se enteró (al menos los que no estaba demasiado ocupados con sus regalos caros). Algunos oyeron música que sonaba como que ángleles estuvieran cantando. Otros siniteron grandes deseos de conocer a ese niñito que había nacido el 25 de diciembre, y le llevaron ropa abrigada, pañales, y algunos juguetes. Muchas familias se alegraron al ver que el niño era saludable, y se llenaron de esperanza, pensando que Dios de verdad estaba presente en este humilde hogar. Alguien dice que se escuchaba como un coro que cantaba: ¡Gloria a Dios, paz en la tierra a los que creen en el Señor!
When the baby was born, everybody in the area found out. (At least, those who were not too busy with their expensive toys.) Some heard beautiful music that sounded as if angels were singing. Others felt they wanted to go and meet this baby, who was born on the 25th of December, and they took him warm clothes, diapers, and some toys. Many families were happy to see that the baby was healthy, and they were filled with hope, thinking that God was truly present in that humble home. Someone says that you could hear a choir that sang: Glory to God, peace on earth to those who have faith in the Lord!