Opening early this year, Centro Islámico is America’s only mosque founded specifically for Latino Muslims. “We used to gather in different masjids,” says Magidel Morris as she celebrated Cinco De Mayo, handing out halal tamales in the mosque’s parking lot. “But then we got together and decided we had to have a place for Hispanic people to get together and learn about Islam.”
Estimates of Latino Muslims in the U.S. range from 30,000 to 300,000, and members of Centro Islámico descend from various countries such as Mexico, Colombia, Puerto Rico, and Cuba.
Founded fifteen years ago, Islam In Spanish was started by Jaime Fletcher, a Colombian American convert. The organization produces Spanish-language programming and Islamic educational materials. “They’ve been able to really define very significant and strong Latino and Muslim identities, and to merge the two together,” says scholar Ken Chitwood who writes about the growing Latino Muslim community. “And they are very intentional about that. They are doing the work of identity construction.”
“You can practice Islam and remain a Latino,” says member Alfonso Flores. “We want Latinos to be proud of where they come from, to have a strong sense of identity for themselves.”