Neo-Pentecostal in Colombia

Wesley Tomaselli 2013

“The devil is afraid of me,” said the woman who has recently found herself in the limelight of Colombian media drama. The drama came after video footage revealing that she condemns disabled persons’ participation in her church hit the screen.

Her name is Maria Luisa Piraquive, a Colombian Neo-Pentecostal leader.

Who Maria Luisa Piraquive really is, is a question with more than one answer though. She is Maria, the brave heir to a church started by her and her husband after he succumbed to a heart attack in 1996. She is also Sister Maria Luisa, the charismatic leader of more than 750 congregations where believers of the evangelical Christian faith she preaches have cropped up across Colombia, Spain, and the US. But she is also Big Mama Piraquive, the head of a family that has ascended from modest beginnings to a wealthy, upper class status, with houses sprinkled around Colombia and Miami. And she is a singer, too.

In response to the release of the footage, which Piraquive’s followers say is private and was never allowed to slip into the hands of Colombian journalists and news agencies, members of Piraquive’s church are protesting what they say is unfair play by the country’s media machines.

They protesters are a minority voice, but theirs is a voice that’s growing louder and louder in Colombia. Neo-Pentecostal Christianity, like other forms of evangelical Protestantism, take scripture seriously, almost literally at times, and preach a direct relationship between worshiper and Holy Spirit through baptism.

As her members defend her, citing constitutional rights to freedom of religious expression in Colombia, Piraquive’s harsh critics in the media keep up the attack, equating her metaphorically (in one instance) to a disease. At this rate, it doesn’t seem like the noisy theater swelling around Ms. Maria Luisa Piraquive is due to die down any time soon.

photo: LatAm FM

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