The Washington-based Pew Hispanic Center reported this week that, according to its new study, Mexicans are the largest single group of immigrants living in the U.S. The data was derived from a 2008 poll that found 12.7 million Mexicans live in America. That accounts for a whopping 32% of all immigrants. The next biggest group — Filipinos — make up only 5% of immigrants.
Though no one has counted how many Mexicans living in the U.S. are Catholic, Mexico is one of the most Catholic countries in the Western Hemisphere. The 2009 Catholic Almanac reports that 89% of Mexico’s total population is Catholic. It’s a pretty good bet that most of the Mexican immigrants in the U.S. are too, and they contribute greatly to the overall numbers of Hispanic Catholics in America. Another of Pew’s centers, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, reported in last year’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey that 29% of U.S. Catholics self-identify as Hispanic. In a church of about 65 million members, that’s a big chunk.
Here are a few of interesting facts about Mexicans in the U.S. from the Pew study:
- “More than half of Mexicans living in the U.S. are unauthorized.”
- “No other country in the world has as many total immigrants from all countries as the U.S. has immigrants from Mexico alone.”
- “About 11% of everyone born in Mexico currently lives in the U.S.”
- “The current Mexican share of all foreign born living in the U.S. — 32% — is the highest concentration of immigrants to the U.S. from a single country since the 19th century.” (The Irish and the Germans have in the past held that distinction.)
Of course, Mexicans have been a big part of the American church since its beginning. After all, a big part of America used to belong to Mexico — Texas, for instance, and most of the Southwest.
Every immigrant group has brought gift after gift to the church in the U.S. Perhaps the biggest gift of all from Mexican Catholics: the patroness of the Americas, Our Lady of Guadalupe.