Lopez, professor of Chicano and Latino studies at Cal State Long Beach, believes the tattoos and religious rituals of gang members have a more complex level of meaning. Lopez said he believes churches and religious leaders are missing a great opportunity to use these icons as a vehicle to talk to youths about faith. Religion is an important aspect of it. Stauring, of Juvenile Hall, has similar concerns. Basic elements are, indeed, embedded in their heritage, but rarely nurtured. Lopez traces the roots of religious conquest in Latin America back to the indigenous gods of the Aztec and Olmec civilizations. Lopez believes the contradiction between those two images of God caused confusion that runs through Latino culture and still influences the minds of young Latinos today. Some religious leaders may denounce such practices as sacrilegious, but Lopez urges a closer look. Holy images can be found throughout Southern California, especially where the Latino population is concentrated.
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