All posts by Oliverio Covarrubias

UNIFI 2017-2018

Having attended Darwin Week and passed Biopsychology, I’ve learned that the organism that thrives rather than simply survive is not always the strongest, the biggest, nor the most colorful but simply the most adaptible to change. Lately, UNIFI has seen change, change that the member base and the alumni should be apprised of in an official fashion.

Due to personal circumstances, the previously announced UNIFI President had decided to step down. As such, having spoken with her officer team I have offered my services as a President for the 2017-2018 Academic Year. I do appreciate the support from the officers, our affiliates and my friends in this interesting time.

Rest assured, this year will go as planned. I can’t wait to see what this year’s orientation sessions bring about, and I do hope to welcome a new year. Whether you are a returning member or a freshman, we hope you come around, stick around and learn something.

Thank you.

Oliverio Covarrubias

MEET THE SPEAKERS OF DARWIN WEEK 2017: DR. HECTOR AVALOS

We are so excited to have our 10th Darwin Week this year, which will be happening from February 13-16th, 2017.

Today’s keynote spotlight will be on Dr. Hector Avalos, a philosophy professor from Iowa State University. He will be giving a lecture titled “Can Science Prove that Prayer Works?” This lecture will tackle the assumed separation between science and religion as well as experiments in the past that looked to prove that. He will be speaking February 15th at 7:30 PM

Dr. Hector Avalos is Professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University, where he was named Professor of the Year in 1996, and a Master Teacher in 2003-04. A former fundamentalist preacher and faith healer, Dr. Avalos is now one of the few openly atheist biblical scholars in academia. Born in Mexico, Avalos received a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Arizona in 1982, and a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School in 1985. In 1991, he became the first Mexican American to earn a PhD in Hebrew Bible and Near Eastern Studies at Harvard. He is the author or editor of ten books, including The End of Biblical Studies (2007). His most recent book is The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics (2015).

If you haven’t already, please “like” the Darwin Week Facebook page (and the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers page, while you’re at it!) Also, click “attending” on the event to get quick Facebook access to the schedule as well as ask questions or add comments.

You can also join the ranks of the several dedicated UNIFI members who have changed their profile pictures and cover images to the ones on this page.

75% Water, 85% Catholic, 100% Confused: Mexican & Secular

GUADALUPEXICOEven if I don’t sit in on my mother’s FaceTime calls to my grandmother, I know the format by now. First fifteen minutes, someone has bad connection. Next fifteen minutes, talking about my cousins. It’s at the thirty-minute mark where things get interesting. Around there is when my grandmother asks my mother if she’s taken my brother and I to church. Or it might be at the forty-five minute mark, or at the twenty-three. As long as me, my brother or both of us are sitting there, the topic of our morals and our beliefs are fair game. I don’t want to make it seem like it’s some sort of inquisition, nor do I want to disrespect my grandmother’s or my extended family’s Catholicism. On the contrary, I sincerely believe that if their beliefs bring them comfort and give them life, then power to them. What’s interesting is looking at my Mexican heritage through the lens of secularism. What does it mean to be a non-Catholic Mexican when the majority of your heritage is heavily Catholic? How does one express heritage when most of the iconography comes from Catholicism?

There’s a lot of talk and rabble in American politics about separation of Church and state, but there’s not that type of discussion in Mexican politics. There doesn’t need to be. Many Mexican cultural traditions are heavily catholic. This trickles down to the layperson’s culture and worldview. What comes next is a general acceptance of what it means to be Mexican. Iconography of La Virgen Maria is as Mexican as it is Catholic, being grounded in both populist folklore as well as Catholic tradition of venerating the Virgin Mary.

Why separate the church and the state when the Church is seen as a basic aspect of the Culture? Not to say that Mexico is a theocracy, but in a country that is 85% Catholic (as of 2010)1, there isn’t as much mainstream fear of a state using its power to impose religion onto its citizens as there is here. To be Mexican is to be Catholic. This belief is still a vestige of Spanish Colonization, when all non-Colonizer belief systems were mostly stamped out. And it is still damn potent. I remember when I heard a friend of mine, who is also of Mexican heritage, was not Catholic but Baptist. I felt a strange sense of bewilderment that I just don’t get when I hear a non-Mexican, particularly a white American say they’re not Christian. I’ve heard it all from white America: paganism, atheism, deism, pastafarianism, and convenient nihilism, it’s whatever. That doesn’t surprise me. But a non-Catholic Mexican feels scandalous, even if there’s literally nothing wrong with that.

The closest thing to an answer I have is the Mexican flag itself. The flag, like other flags holds meaning in its colors. In particular, the symbol of the eagle and the cactus in the middle. For reference, here’s a flag:

MEXIFLAGO

Take note of the Eagle and the Cactus in the middle. After my ranting on Catholic iconography, you’d expect that to probably be either tied to some local catholic tradition. For the most part, it is. The green signifies the independence movement, while the white signifies the purity of Catholicism. The red represents the Spanish who joined in to help the independence. But in the middle there’s an eagle and a cactus. Those are just as Mexican as the rest of the flag, but they are not grounded in colonial traditional Catholicism. Instead, it’s a precolonial myth2 about the establishment of the Aztec capital. In the myth, the Aztec tribe had been wandering for a long time when the gods came down and gave them this advice: to keep wandering until they came upon a nopal, a cactus, with an eagle eating a snake perched on it. That seemed like an impossible thing, to find that combination in the desert. But they came upon that, on the site of where Mexico City is now located. It has been an enduring symbol of Mexico and it’s native roots. And if a Catholic country can have a non-Catholic symbol in the center, I can keep on, expressing my heritage and the community it brings. It’s not the best solution, but I’ll keep wandering until I find one.

 

Sources:

1Pew Research Center, Global Catholic Population

2Mexican Flag – AmHistorySI