Hispanic Religion The Catholic Traditions, Meaning
& Celebrations Among Hispanics

Hispanic Religion

Jesus on the Cross
Santiago de Compostela, Spain
by Marcela Hede

Hispanic Religion has been a phrase that equates to Roman Catholic faith among most Hispanics. We grew up practicing many of the typical Roman Catholic traditions and attending mass on Sundays. Religion has played a very important role among Latinos for many years, shaping us and guiding our views and way of living.

I venture to say that through Hispanic culture runs a deep spiritual vein. It is evidenced in our language. Words like “ojalᔠor “si Dios quire” meaning “if God wills,” and “bendito sea Dios” meaning “praise the Lord” are abundant in our every day language.

Mentioning god is a common occurrence and trying to live a good Catholic life is an ideal that we pursue. Not all Hispanics are Catholic but the majority is, and in the near future this religion will have about 60 million participants of which half will be Hispanics.

How Hispanic Culture Acquired Catholicism as Its Religion

When Spain and Portugal conquered the new world they were determined to spread the Catholic faith no matter what the religious practices were in the new territories. Religious transculturation happened from the mix of Catholicism and the indigenous religious practices.

Religious transculturation simply means that “elements of the conquerors saints and beliefs intermingled with the rituals and world views of the conquered,” as it is mentioned in the “Latino History and Culture” publication by Harper Collins in the chapter about religion.

Transculturation gave us an incredible variety of celebrations, rituals, and physical representations of the elements of the Catholic religion like Jesus, the cross, the saints, the novenas, and rituals in general.

Hispanic Religious Celebrations

Many celebrations are founded on the life of Jesus Christ. Hispanic culture also celebrates the lives of different saints that vary among countries.

Hispanics see religion as a way of living therefore we bring to the faith the Hispanic family life, our strength in values, the love of celebrating and following rituals, and the value we give to people over things.

The main celebrations of Hispanic religion are:

The Role of Symbols in Hispanic religion

Symbols play an important role by keeping us close to our faith. How? By surrounding ourselves with them. Physical images of virgins, stamps of saints, and crosses hanging in our homes are some of the examples.

Many homes in South America have special wall niches to place the images of saints, virgins and Jesus.

In many Hispanic homes it is very common to find a portrait of “El Corazón de Jesús” which is a painting of Jesus showing his bleeding heart surrounded by thorns and with his hands praying. Many churches have figures of Jesus with different skin color, from mestizo to white with blue eyes.

The main symbols in Hispanic religion are:

  • The cross
  • Images of saints
  • The rosary
  • Image of the Virgin Mary

Hispanic Saints and Patrons

Representations of saints take center stage in Hispanic religion. We pray, light candles and talk to our patrons which are saints. Each Latin American country has a patron saint or virgin they celebrate. Patron Saints are also assigned to towns and regions, and we celebrate “Las Fiestas Patronales” or the patrons’ festivities in many Hispanic countries.

Examples of very well known Patrons Saints in Hispanic religion are:

  • “San Juan Bautista” – Puerto Rico’s patron
  • “Nuestra Señora de Chiquinquirᔠ– Patron virgin of Colombia
  • “La Virgen de la Caridad” – Patron virgin of Cuba
  • “Nuestra Señora de Altagracia” – Patron virgin of the Dominican Republic
  • ”Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe” – Patron virgin of Mexico

The Role of Novenas in Hispanic Religion

Catholicism among Hispanics is also rich in “Novenas” which are prayers that last nine days. The name novena came from the Latin novem that means nine. The purpose of the novena is to help the pour soul who prays in his tribulations.

We offer novenas to virgins or saints that in many cases solve particular afflictions. The most popular novenas are dedicated to the Virgin Mary under a plethora of names like “la Virgen del Socorro” or the Virgin of Perpetual Help, the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, “la Virgen de Guadalupe,” and many more.

The most popular novenas are:

Hispanic Religion and The Virgin Mary

On December 8th many Catholics including Hispanics celebrate this holy day. I know in Colombia there is a massive celebration throughout the cities where families and especially children light candles and decorate the fronts of their homes to honor the virgin’s Immaculate Conception. A party follows after.

The most popular virgins in Hispanic religion are:

The apparitions of the Virgin of Fatima created a lot of interest surrounding the well known Fatima prophecies that in 1917 she revealed to three little Shepherds at Cova da Iria, Portugal.

Hispanics and the Transformation of American Religion

Hispanic Religion

Cathedral La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona Spain
by Marcela Hede

Latinos today are playing a very important role in the transformation of American religion. Many immigrants continue to pour into the country and with them comes their faith which in the majority of cases is the Catholic religion. On the other hand statistics show they are practicing a different kind of Christianity, more guided towards the charismatic and renewalist movements.

There is no doubt that Hispanic religion used to be equated to the practice of the classic Catholic religion but this statement is rapidly changing. Today more than half of Hispanic Catholics identify themselves as charismatics compared to only an eighth of non-Hispanic Catholics according to the research “Changing Faiths: Latinos and The Transformation of American Religion” published by the PEW Hispanic Center in 2007.

Hispanic religion in the U.S.A. is definitely changing and with it its practices. We continue to be very attached to religion and our faith guides us through everyday life. Religion continues to shape our spiritual and political views.


  1. Alena Eshom says:

    Thank you for this website. I was wondering why some of Hispanic culture choose to name their children Jesus. I see that it is for honor and respect. That’s cool!

  2. I have 3 questions
    1. Did the Roman Catholic influence the Hispanic culture?
    2. What major event led his Spanish to Roman Catholic.
    3. What year did the Roman Catholic come to the Hispanic culture

    • Marcela Hede says:

      Hi Bre- yes the Roman Catholic influenced deeply Hispanic culture as the religion of the conquerors was Roman Catholic and they set out to convert all indigenous inhabitants to their faith. The influence started right at the moment of the “descubrimiento” 1492 when the Columbus arrived in “La Española” which is today Haiti and Dominican Republic. Remember, the trip to the Americas was financed by the Spanish king and queen.

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