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I Was Married to a Catholic Woman (and Other Tales from an Ecuadorian-American Atheist)

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Dalton Alache VasquezThis article originally appeared as part of SSA eNews No. 11 - The SSA Around the World.

My name is Dalton Alache Vasquez and I am a 36-year-old Atheist living in Miami. I was born in Los Angeles to Ecuadorian parents, but I was raised in Ecuador because my father has a business down there. I would call myself an Ecuadorian-American.

On Religion and Freethought in Ecuador

Ecuador is a very conservative and chauvinistic country where most men dominate business and politics and most women are housewives. The majority of the people in Ecuador and most Latin American countries are Roman Catholics. I guess this is because we were colonized by Spain. Non-Catholic Christians are, little by little, stealing people from the Catholic Church to join their ranks, especially among the poor.

Both the Mormon Church or Jehovah's Witnesses send American missionaries to Ecuador to convert people, and it is working. There are many non-Catholic churches, including a massive one in the main port city called Guayaquil.

A lot of young people in Ecuador struggle between Catholicism and other Christian denominations. Sometimes they go on Saturday to the denominational Church with their Christian friends and on Sunday to the Catholic Church with their families. My sister is one of these; she met her future husband in a Christian Church but married in a Catholic Church. Now they live in L.A. and have joined a Christian denomination.

Everywhere in Ecuador they ask for the diezmo, the local word for tithing. Diez means ten, which means that they have to give to the Catholic Church 10 % of their income. The standard lie that the preachers tell their flock is that "If you give 10% of your income to us, God will pay you back tenfold."

The majority of well-to-do Ecuadorians use the Catholic Church as a social tool, where they throw elaborate parties to celebrate the Baptism, First Communion, and Marriage of their children. Of course, the poor cannot afford to do this, and that is why many of them turn to denominational churches.

There are Freethinkers and Atheists in Ecuador, but they just keep quiet in order to keep their jobs and to resist marginalization. A great percentage of Catholics are CINOs, Catholics in Name Only, and just go to church once or maybe twice a year.

My Story

I moved back to L.A. in my early twenties, sort of to escape the conservative views of most Ecuadorians, and for economic reasons. Ten years ago I met a Catholic woman from Mexico, and she decided to come with me to Miami. We were in love, got married in Miami, and lived a normal life until about a year ago when we separated and later divorced. Our problems started two years ago when I decided that I no longer wanted to feel like a hypocrite celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas. This situation started to affect her, because for the last few years I felt a need to escape to Ecuador to visit my father during the American holiday of Thanksgiving.

We had other problems, but the icing on the cake for my ex-wife was when I told her that I don't want my children to have anything to do with the Catholic Church, especially after the child sex abuse scandal. I told her I didn't want to take part in a Baptism, First Communion, or Sunday visits. She would not accept this, because she has family in Tijuana, the border town on the other side of San Diego, and people in Mexico are very much like Ecuadorians when it comes to the Catholic Church. Her family knew I was an Atheist and they never made a fuss about it, at least not to my face, but I started feeling uncomfortable.

To conclude, I have a small piece of advice to you: If you are a teenager or in your twenties, you probably don't care what religion your partner is, but when you get to your thirties, and you start to think about marriage and family, I strongly suggest you look for somebody with your same religious beliefs.

Feel free to contact me. My email is: [email protected].

This article originally appeared as part of SSA eNews No. 11 - The SSA Around the World.
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