On an episode recorded on International Blasphemy Day Juhem and Luciano talk with Dr. Yazmin Trejo about her project on secular Latinx history and stories. Dr. Trejo talks about the motivations for the project, some of her findings so far, and how to help her document laicismo and secularism in the Greater Latinx community in the U.S. and Latin America. Luciano delves into the history of International Blasphemy Day to start the episode.
Latin American History And International Blasphemy Day (Luciano GonzalezSin/God)
To share secular Latinx stories with Dr. Trejo please email: secularlaico AT gmail DOT com
Luciano Gonzalez is exploring secular history and major figures in the secular movement. He starts with George Holyoake:
This post is meant to mark the beginning of a series I want to do talking about figures who have relevance to the history of irreligion. One of the first figures I’d like to talk about is George Holyoake. This guy was and is someone who has real significance to global secularism, partially because he coined the term “secular”. I’m sure that at least some English atheists, secularists, and otherwise irreligious people are familiar with him but I know that many free-thinkers from other parts of the world aren’t as aware of him and the work he did.
–Luciano Gonzalez Sin/God
I learned about Holyoake when I was working at the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society & Culture and I encourage Luciano to continue his unearthing of secular history. It is something I’ve been interested in for a while and served as the start of my first talk about diversity in the secular movement last year at the CFI Leadership Conference. Some books that have been helpful in my search are Susan Jacoby’s Freethinkers and her fascinating biography of Robert Green Ingersoll The Great Agnostic, and John Farrell’s biography of Clarence Darrow.
Personally, I’m also interested in Hispanic/Latino/Latin American secularism which is why I am very interested in the history of the Spanish Civil war and the Cristero War in Mexico. About the latter there are two movies: an excellent La Guerra Santa (1979) a censored movie that my amazing in-laws tracked and found for me in Mexico a few years back but that you can watch in Youtube now. The second is the pathetic pro-Catholic propaganda film For Greater Glory. I also have in my to-read queue El Epistolario de Benito Juárez (the letters of Benito Juarez) to better understand his thinking on Churc-State separation. Finally, I have started re-reading a favorite author from my (Catholic) high school days Nemesio R. Canales, a Puerto Rican freethinker, lawyer, satirist, and politician.
This post was originally published on March 21, 2011 in the now-defunct Being Latino Online Magazine. Due to my preparations to get back to work I forgot to schedule this post for Monday. Better late than never, Benito.
Juarez, Mexico. Today, the name evokes images of rampant violence, but in the 19th century, it stood for one of the greatest Mexican men in the history of that great country. Benito Juárez rose from humble origins to become one of the great statesmen of all time. Born a full-blooded Indian in Oaxaca (Mexico) on March 21, 1806 and orphaned by the age of 3, he was still illiterate at age 13. But by the time he reached his 30s, he was an accomplished lawyer, jurist, and politician. He was interested in government, law, and especially indigenous rights, and was the architect of the liberal constitution of 1857. A liberal to his core, Juárez led a Mexican government in exile from New Orleans when forced to leave after conservative uprisings. He was a mix of Abe Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison: a strong statesman, with a brilliant legal mind and a secular sensibility.
One of Juarez’s many achievements was the establishment of a constitutional separation of Church and State in Mexico by not naming Catholicism the official state Church. Considering the pull and influence that the Catholic Church had back in the day (and still has today) in Mexican society, this was no small feat. Today, Mexico, along with France, India, Turkey, and the United States, is one of the largest countries in the world with a constitutional separation of Religion and State. Almost 140 years after his death, this idea is as salient as ever as Mexico is becoming a religiously diverse country.
Juarez’s name is celebrated in Mexico and around the world as a beacon of liberalism and one of the great liberal statesmen of the 19th century, a politically contentious era that witnessed liberal revolutions in many parts of the world, especially in Latin America. His legacy is much more than the places named after him. Let’s remember his achievements today and wish a happy 205th birthday to Benito Juarez!