Centro Islamico first opened its doors in 2016 and is said to be the country’s first Spanish-speaking mosque. Located in Houston, the 5,000-square-foot religious center serves as a gathering space for both Latino Muslims and non-Muslims. The prayer room includes benches for visitors who would like to observe services. A reception area offers educational material in Spanish. Classes, which are available online, include Spanish, Arabic and “Islam 101,” which introduces non-Muslims to the essentials of the faith. A pair of plaques hang on the wall: “Bienvenidos, mi casa es su casa.” (Welcome, my house is your house) “Donde esta Dios, no falta nada.” (Where God dwells, nothing is lacking.)
Latino Muslims are said to be the fastest-growing segment of Islam in the United States with an estimated number of 250,000. Worshippers have origins in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and other Latin American countries commune. They celebrate Cinco de Mayo and Ramadan with potluck and iftar dinners of empanadas, arroz con gandules and halal tamales. They pray in Arabic, Spanish and English.
“It’s a wonderful sight to see,” said Isa Parada, Centro Islamico’s imam and educational director. “That’s how you break down stereotypes and misunderstanding.