Although the landscape is gradually changing, women are still a minority in the Master of Divinity (MDiv) program. For this reason, and due to other ideas, presuppositions, etc., there is a certain reaction of surprise when my and other women’s aspirations to pursue a Ph.D. in theology are known. However, there is a question that has captured all my attention, and that has been repeatedly asked in different conversations during the last twenty-four hours: “Are you considering translating theological works written in English to Spanish?”
Once I finish my theological education, my goal is to serve the Spanish speaking church as a professor at universities and seminaries, as a teacher at a local church, and as a writer. There is a great need for publication of serious theological material in Spanish. Nonetheless, there are also big challenges when it comes to the publishing houses. These will publish only material that sells, even if it is heresy. And those publishers committed to publishing serious theological resources are not in an economic position that will allow them to subsist for much longer. It is not a secret that the majority of the Christian population would prefer reading Joel Osteen (or his Latino impersonators) than the work of a serious theologian (Latin American or not).
That being said, let’s go back to the question: “Are you considering translating theological works written in English to Spanish?” My immediate reaction is mentally asking, “Why should I translate when I will have the theological training required to be able to write something “original”?” Note that the term original is in quotation marks because I am not referring to original in the sense of writing totally new content. I recognize that we are standing on the shoulders of giants that came before us. Tradition should have a crucial place in the theological task. I use the term original in the sense that it is not a translation.
It is at this point that I move the conversation to the topic of contextualization. We do not do theology in a vacuum. We come to the task with all our prejudices, baggage, life experiences, cultural formation, etc. When we do theology we cannot detach ourselves from these dimensions. Therefore, I firmly believe that although we do need Spanish translations of good theological resources, it should not be at the expense of abandoning the theological task from a Latino/a and Hispanic perspectives. In my case, I do theology from the perspective of a Hispanic, Latina, Caribeña, Puerto Rican woman. Translating a theological work from English to Spanish does not detach it from the context in which it was written. And very often the context in which these texts were (and are) written reflect the perspective of a middle-class white man; that man that has not suffered discrimination and whose identity cannot be described as liminal (in-between). I am referring to that man that is not treated as a second-class citizen or as an “illegal” human being because of his provenance; that man that is not diminished because of his gender or the color of his skin. The theological task at an academic level (and at any other level) from a Hispanic and Latino/a perspectives cannot be abandoned, because there are particular experiences that will distinguish it and will not be found in a translation.
The conversation ends with: “I had not thought about that”.