By Juan Carlos Morales
Masked Africanisms: Puerto Rican Pentecostalism
With Masked Africanisms: PuertoRican Pentecostalism, Dr. Samuel Cruz has provided a gift and a valuable academic resource for anyone interested in the Latino church in general and Latino Pentecostals in particular. The dearth of research and material on Latino Pentecostalism, particularly from a sociological perspective makes this work all the more important.
While being a significant contribution to the academy with keen insight, helpful footnotes and an extensive bibliography, the readability of Masked Africanisms adds to its value by making it accessible to many religious leaders in the Latino community whose collective ministries impact the majority of the Protestant, Latino community. It is critical that the Latino, religious leadership obtain historical and sociological understandings of the Pentecostal movement and the Latino experience within it. It is just as critical that within those understandings there be a wide scope of perspectives, which Dr. Cruz has accomplished with this work.
Masked Africanisms begins by providing a general overview of the origins of Pentecostalism and of the Latino involvement in those origins. Dr. Cruz follows the movement of Pentecostalism to Puerto Rico
Masked Africanisms also provides a less-known, yet equally needed overview of the African roots in Pentecostalism and in PuertoRican culture, society and religion; the latter through the Carribean slave trade and the former through the slave trade in North America. Dr. Cruz makes the case that Pentecostalism was bound to flourish in the PuertoRican community precisely because both had internalized elements of African culture.
Specifically, Dr. Cruz discusses the repetition of short songs or coritos, the use of the entire body in worship, shaking or dancing “in the spirit”, openness to the ideas of spiritual possession, good or bad, being spiritually led in an intimate way, glossolalia, miracles, as the PuertoRican Pentecostal connections with “Africanisms”.
It should be noted that Dr. Cruz is not claiming that these elements derived exclusively from Africa