Alfredo Garcia | April 1, 2016

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Colonial Art as Ethnic Unifier

Standard portrayals in the area of religion and immigration emphasize the creation of sacred place as an important means for the establishment of social roots in a new land. Mosques, gurdwaras, churches: these worship spaces are integral for the maintenance of group cohesion, the preservation of ethnic and national identity, and the activation of processes of assimilation for immigrants arriving in the United States. But what are the challenges associated with the creation of sacred place in a multiethnic area? In what ways can the creation of sacred place accommodate a highly diverse population? This paper draws from ethnographic work in Miami to demonstrate how one parish in the Wynwood/Allapattah neighborhood used colonial art, architecture, and structure to unite residents in its multiethnic parish geographical area. Responding to the pastoral and sociological realities associated with poverty, division, and immigration, Corpus Christi Catholic Church turned to the colonial era to unite and support the parishioners in the neighborhood. Using the colonial model even today to respond to the rapid socioeconomic changes in the area, Corpus Christi presents a useful case to consider cultural strategies of action amidst the realities associated with immigration and diversity.

Alfredo Garcia is a graduate student in the department of sociology at Princeton University.  Prior to arriving at Princeton, Alfredo earned an MTS at Harvard Divinity School and was a reporter with the Religion News Service. His dissertation, “The Walls of Wynwood: Art and Change in the Global Neighborhood,” examines how currents of global cultural consumption shape small places through a long term (3-year) ethnographic study of the neighborhood of Wynwood. Aside from this project, Alfredo also studies organized nonbelief in the United States.  He is currently an adjunct professor in the department of religion at the University of Miami and in the department of Global and Sociocultural Studies at Florida International University

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