October 15 marks the conclusion of this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States. Given the rich texture of Spanish-speaking cultures, their continuous presence in the Americas since the 15th century, and their now more than 18% share of the U.S. population, we joyfully celebrate this meaningful observance. At The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute, we have another reason to celebrate our Latinx neighbors, as Spanish-speaking countries factor large in our namesake’s story.
After qualifying as a candidate for ordination, Dietrich Bonhoeffer spent a critically formative year in Barcelona, from which he traveled out to a good part of Spain. While he served a German-speaking congregation there, he became enthralled with his host country’s culture. He later visited churches in Cuba, and in 1931, Dietrich and two post-doctoral fellows from Union Theological Seminary undertook an epic road trip to Mexico City.
Lately, the U.S. southern border has been a place fraught with conflict, suffering, and ugly nativist-like contempt for mostly brown people who are desperate to flee violence, poverty, and corruption in their home countries. Nonetheless, the considerable presence of Hispanic migrants affords conscientious Americans a chance to counter contempt with compassion, hospitality, and service to the other. Bonhoeffer called Jesus “the man for others.” The Christ at the center of Bonhoeffer’s theology commended those who welcomed the stranger because by so doing, they received Jesus himself (Matthew 25:35).