Using Latinx Theology’s Lo Cotidiano to Decolonialize Oller’s El Velorio

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Héctor Manuel Varela Rios

Abstract

This article explores the theological valences of Francisco Oller y Cestero’s El Velorio (ca. 1893), his interpretation of the child’s funerary wake called bakiné in Puerto Rico, using the Latinx theological concept of lo cotidiano and its decolonializing force. In contrast to Oller’s elitist and colonialized view of bakiné as “brutish” and “superstition”, a decolonial cotidiano approach valorizes its nuanced expression of Puerto Rican popular religion, identity, and culture among everyday belief and practice. This approach construes bakiné as a celebration of life, orthodox in light of Catholic doctrine, and representative of the reality of many Puerto Ricans to this day, a life in which redemption triumphs over sin and creativity over chaos even when rife with suffering and oppression. Indeed, El Velorio evinces a popular hermeneutic, a quotidian relationality, and a creative faith that has larger theological implications about the complexities of being human, being religious-in-community, and being created, and about the relationship between theology, art, and human.

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Author Biography

Héctor Manuel Varela Rios, Villanova University

Héctor M. Varela Rios is Assistant Professor of Theology (Latinx Theology) at Villanova University in Philadelphia, USA. His work focuses on the intersection between theology and material culture in Latinx community, especially how the discursive space created by objects and humans can be theological. For instance, he has published on theological anthropology and sancocho, a heavy soup prevalent in the Caribbean. His upcoming research explores the documentality and authenticity of non-textual objects of belief.