This last weekend, (as mentioned earlier) we visited my parents. Their Stake has a Spanish speaking branch, which was having an activity while we were there. Since my Dad fancies himself a Spanish speaker (he is rather good) we went to this activity. It was disappointing. The main appeal to the activity was that there were going to be people who had learned traditional dances from the Spanish speaking counties in central and south America performing. The next most exiting thing was vocal performances of traditional songs. The thing that nobody knew was coming, that largely ruined the activity was a half hour long slide show about the book of mormon and its promises to the descendants of the Lamanites. And the part that really made me uncomfortable was how I didn't feel like a guest at their activity, I felt like a tourist being performed for.
I guess it partly matters why one thinks that a Spanish-speaking branch should exist. I think Spanish speaking branches exist so that native speakers can hear the words of God and be taught in the language they are most familiar with, and so that they can be comforted and buoyed up by the members of the branch who share a similar cultural background. It seems that the branch president believes Spanish branches exist for members who can't speak English, and as a missionary tool for others who prefer Spanish.
My Dad said he has served with the man who is the branch president in other capacities and noted that he was unwilling to have any activity that didn't have a specific "Priesthood Purpose." In terms of this activity I would say the priesthood purpose should have been building comraderie among the branch members, and inviting the gringos to learn about the culture. But no. The Priesthood Purpose was pseduo-mormon doctrine 101. The slide show was a complete disaster. The only thing it didn't mention about the Lamanites was how when they were righteous their skin turned white. It did mention that their skin turned dark because of wickedness. While the slide show was narrated in Spanish, the words on the slides were all English, and the pictures were hardly visible through the words. Call me crazy but it might not be a good thing to tell people that their ancestors were horribly wicked people, and were cursed with dark skin because of it.
If it is a Spanish-speaking branch then it should be Spanish speaking. Everything said that night was said twice. The MC was a guy who served a mission in Mexico. He would announce the next number in Spanish, and then again in English. The only thing that was halfway good (other than the dancing and traditional songs) was the guy that sang "Oh, that I were an Angel!" in Spanish. Except halfway through he switched back to English. I found myself wondering, how much of their Sunday meetings were like this?
As I was sitting there watching I also wondered "why on earth are all of the people in charge here gringos?" I'm sure that all of the leaders served spanish speaking missions, and love the people dearly, but is there *any* reason that the branch president can't be a native Spanish speaker? I understand the need for the BP to be able to converse with the Stake Presidency, but surely there is a worthy man who speaks English well enough to do that? Wouldn't it mean so much to the children to see someone like them as their leader?
That activity was a fully traditional activity. The dances were traditional, the songs were traditional, the clothing was traditional, the pushy semi-racist missionary message was traditional, and the power structure was traditional too. Sometimes I hate tradition.