We Fight Out of Cariño
My interest in fighting was born out of my experience at Dolores Mission Church, a Jesuit parish located in Boyle Heights, Ca, where I served as youth minister. Much of my job took place in the streets, and it was there where I observed a high frequency of fighting between friends, not only among teenage boys, but also among girls. In 2009, my interest in this act grew when I asked some teenagers what this act meant to them. A tough-as-nails 15-year-old girl responded, “We fight out of cariño,” which means, we fight out of affection and caring. Inspired by her words, I came to call this type of fighting, cariño-fighting.
More than friendly wrestling but not as destructive as violent fist fighting with an adversary, cariño-fighting involves such actions as punching, slapping, smashing into each other, laughing, pushing, trash talking, chest bumping, pulling hair, and kicking.
Based on anecdotal information gathered in 2009 and anonymous surveys completed in 2012 (from a total of 91 Boyle Heights young people ranging from 11 – 24 years of age), 86% of these young people have engaged in cariño-fighting. On average, each one of the 86% cariño-fights at least once a week, and in extreme cases a 17 year-old-girl has cariño-fought over 100 times in a year, and a 15-year-old boy has cariño-fought over 25 times in a month.
In order to effectually understand the meaning behind cariño-fighting, I constructed a narrative methodology that emphasizes opening up the act so that the life circumstances surrounding the act are given a voice. Based on the see-judge-actprocess, this narrative methodology proposes: a) six strategies to see the narratives behind a given act, b) a dialogue between these narrative pieces and the local realities, culture, and faith community, and c) the creation of new transformative narratives. Of particular importance, the identification of salvific themes plays a significant role throughout this narrative process. In identifying salvific themes in distinct generational contexts, a dialogical door opens between generations, as in the case of cariño-fighting. To adequately illustrate this dialogue between generations, I will first briefly describe the Dolores Mission community.
Dolores Mission Church is a Jesuit parish located in the Pico-Aliso area in Boyle Heights, Ca. Adjacent to East Los Angeles, Boyle Heights is a densely populated inner-city community consisting primarily of Spanish-speaking Mexican born and first generation U.S. born peoples (The youth are primarily U.S. born.). The local streets are beautifully adorned with dozens of brightly colored murals depicting La Virgen de Guadalupe, and some depicting historical Mexican and Aztec figures. The youth in Boyle Heights are mostly bilingual and bicultural, experiencing the influences of traditional Mexican culture and mainstream U.S. culture. Most people in this area face the daily effects of poverty and violence, especially young people who are affected by at least one of the four major local gangs.
While many Boyle Heights youth are considered “at-risk” and are affected by gangs and gang culture, most are not gang members.The local public education system is overwhelmed and under-resourced resulting in a 44% high school dropout rate. Jobs are scarce and the lack of opportunities creates a void in daily life –there simply is nothing to do and nowhere to go. Experiencing the persistent threat of gang violence, many youth suffer from what may be defined as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which affects their ability to concentrate and cope with daily life. Gaining little benefit from public services most youth are suspicious of institutions, including police/justice, educational, and religious. This brief summary provides the context from which to describe the spirituality of the community.
 See-Judge-Act is a process intended to engage and understand the daily life of a community (See). From that engagement, themes emerge and challenges are named, which require deeper understanding and reflection, leading to a dialogue between the community’s life experiences and sacred scripture, Christian tradition and theological ideas (Judge). With new insights gained from the dialogue, the process provokes a new praxis by and for the community, that is, a new way of interaction that brings about personal and community transformation (Act).
 Pew Research Center, “‘Nones’ on the Rise.” Pew Research Center: Religion and Public Life Project, October 9, 2012, accessed February 21, 2013, http://www.pewforum.org/2012/10/09/nones-on-the-rise/; Pew Research Center, “The Shifting Religious Identity of Latinos in the United States: Nearly One-in-Four Latinos are Former Catholics.” Pew Research Center Religion and Public Life Project, May 7, 2014, accessed May 10, 2014, http://www.pewforum.org/2014/05/07/the-shifting-religious-identity-of-latinos-in-the-united-states/.