As the nation’s Hispanic population has grown to 50 million, so too has the Spanish-language church, one of the largest segments of U.S. Christianity. But compared to previous decades, when the growth in the Hispanic population came from immigration, and when many of the nation’s biggest Spanish-speaking congregations blossomed, the growth of Hispanics in the last decade has been led by second-generation and third-generation Hispanics, such as Pardo and her peers. The latest national census showed that native-born Hispanics, who tend to prefer English, now account for nearly two-thirds of the group.
While it’s become common wisdom that English-speaking churches will shrink as younger generations, who are typically less religious, become the majority, the Spanish church — known across denominations for its religious fervor — is battling to keep its youth in the faith. It’s having to budge on one of its biggest points of pride and identity, its language, to hold on to them.