Skip navigation

College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Department of Religious Studies

Leon Header

Faculty & Staff

Luís León

  • Luís León

    Luís León

Sturm 269
Phone: 303-871-4706


PhD, University of California, Santa Barbara, Religious Studies
MTS, Harvard University Divinity School
AB, University of California, Berkeley

Areas of expertise/Research interests

  • Religions in the Americas
  • Postcolonialism
  • Latina/o Studies

Current research and projects

Dr. León is the author of two books: The Political Spirituality of Cesar Chavez: Crossing Religious Borders (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014), and La Llorona’s Children: Religion, Life, and Death in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004). A new and expanded edition of Religion and American Cultures: Tradition, Diversity, and Popular Expression, edited with Gary Laderman, was published in December 2014 by ABC-Clio. His current research interrogates the intersections of spirituality, race, class, and sexuality among Latino men in lived religions and popular media. He is exploring the same intersections through Pentecostal autobiography, and in an ethnographic project focused on Penitente men.  With Laura E. Perez he is co-editing a collection of essays on de-colonizing spirituality and sexuality.

His teaching areas include religion and politics in the United States; Latino/a borderland religions; method and theory in the study of religions; cultural studies; and queer theory.

Professional biography

Dr. León joined the department in 2006 after completing a postdoc at the Stanford Humanities Center and teaching as a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley for three years. He has also taught at Arizona State University and Carleton College. Dr. León's work focuses on the intersections of religion, race, class, gender, social inequality, and sexuality.


Books: La Llorona's Children: Religion, Life, and Death in the United States-Mexican Borderlands. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.

The Political Spirituality of Cesar Chavez: Crossing Religious Borders. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014.

Encyclopedia: Religion and American Cultures: Multicultural American Traditions and Popular Religious Expressions, 3 vols., co-editor with Gary Laderman. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO Reference Publishers (2003). Winner, Library Journal Award, Best Reference Collection, 2003.

Currently in process of editing a third volume of twenty essays, Special Topics

Refereed Journal Articles:
"Cesar Chavez in American Religious Politics," in American Quarterly: The Journal of the American Studies Association, special edition on Religion and Politics; 59:3 (September 2007): 857-881.

"Metaphor and Place: The United States – Mexico Border as Center and Periphery in the Interpretation of Religion," in The Journal of the American Academy of Religion 67:3 (Fall, 1999): 541- 71.

"The Poetic Uses of Religion in The Miraculous Day of Amalia Gómez," Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation, 9:2 (Summer 1999): 205 – 231.

"Somos Un Cuerpo En Cristo: Notes on Power and the Body in an East Los Angeles Pentecostal Community," Latino Studies Journal, 5 (September, 1994): 60-86.

Peer Reviewed and Invited Essays/Book Chapters:
"Latina and Latino Borderland Religions," in Stephen Stein, ed. The Cambridge History of Religions in America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 402-429.

"California," for "States of the Union" series in Religion and Politics, on-line journal housed within the John C. Danforth Center for Religion and Politics, Washington University in St. Louis. May, 2012.

"Cannabis Club," in A Collaborative Genealogy of Spirituality, curated by Kathryn Lofton and John Lardas Modern, on line journal sponsored by the Social Science Research Council, December 8, 2011.

"Conquering Hate: Cesar Chavez on Immigration." The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience. ABC-CLIO, 2011. Web.

"American Prophecy: Cesar Chavez in Light of Martin Luther King and Gandhi," in Wading Through Many Voices: Toward a Theology of Public Conversation, ed. Harold Recinos (NY: Rowman and Littlefield, 2011), 115-129.

"America Through Indian Eyes: A Response to Jace Weaver's 'Pluralist, Separatism, and Community,'" in Wading Through Many Voices: Toward a Theology of Public Conversation, ed. Harold Recinos (NY: Rowman and Littlefield, 2011), 111-114.

"Cesar Chavez, Christian Love, and the Myth of the (Anti-) Macho: Toward an Ethic of the Religiously Erotic," in Miguel de la Torre, ed., Out of the Shadows, Into the Light: Christianity and Homosexuality (St. Lous, MO: Chalice Press, 2009).

"Borderland Bodies and Souls: Mexican Religious Healing Practices in East L.A.," in Gaston Espinosa and Mario T. Garcia, eds., Mexican American Religions: Spirituality, Activism, and Culture (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008).

"Exhibiting Religious Erotics: Ethics of Machismo after Aztlán," in Miguel De La Torre, and Gastón Espinosa, eds. Re-thinking Latina/o Religion and Theology (Boston: Pilgrim Press, Fall, 2006).

"Cesar Chavez and American Civil Religions," in Virgil Elizondo, Jesse Miranda, Gaston Espinosa, ed., Hispanic Churches in American Public Life (Oxford University Press, 2005).

"Born Again in East LA: The Congregation as Border Space," in R. Stephen Warner and Judith Wittner, eds. Gatherings in Diaspora: Religious Communities and the New Immigration. (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998). Reprinted in Donna R. Gabaccia Vicki L. Ruiz, American Dreaming Global Realities: Rethinking U.S. Immigration History (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2006).

"'Soy una Curandera y Soy una Católica': The Poetics of a Mexican Healing Tradition," in Horizons of the Sacred: Mexican Religious Traditions in Twentieth-Century U.S. Catholicism. Gary Riebe-Estrella and Timothy Matovina, eds. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002).

Book Reviews:
Our Lady of the Rock: Vision and Pilgrimage in the Mojave Desert (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2015), Catholic Historical Review (Submitted February 15, 2016).

Catholic Borderlands: Mapping Catholicism onto American Empire, 1005-1935 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2014), by Anne M. Martinez, for the New Mexico Historical Review (Submitted December 9, 2015).

Latino Mennonites: Civil Rights, Faith & Evangelical Culture (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2014), by Felipe Hinojosa, for The American Historical Review, 120:4 (October 2015): 1059-60.

Sacred Iconographies in Chicana Cultural Productions (NY: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2013), by Clara Róman-Odio for Anthropos, 110: 1 (February 2015): 267-8.

Latino Catholicism: Transformation in America's Largest Church. By Timothy Matovina (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012). Forthcoming in The Journal of Church History.

Los Protestantes: An Introduction to Latino Protestantism in the United States. By Juan Francisco Martínez. (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, 2011.). Submitted 18 January 2012. Forthcoming in New Mexico Historical Review.

The Black Madonna in Latin America and Europe: Tradition and Transformation. By Malgorzata Oleszkiewicz-Peralba (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2007), in The Journal of Church History (June 2010): 504-506.

The Virgin of El Barrio: Marian Apparitions, Catholic Evangelizing, and Mexican American Activism, by Nabhok-Warren, Kristy (NY: NYU Press, 2004), in Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture, 75:1 (Fall 2006): 224-226.

Creative Spirituality: The Way of the Artist, by Robert Wuthnow, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 71:1 (Spring 2003): 251-54.

Articles for Religion Dispatches (
"When Religion Kills: The Christian Narco-Traffickers of Mexico"
August 2011;

"Misusing Cesar Chavez in Immigration Debates,"
December 5, 2010;

"Yes We Can/Si Se Puede: Remembering and Forgetting Cesar Chavez,"April 23, 2009;

Encyclopedia Articles:
"Latino Studies," in Carl Raschke, ed. "Encyclopedia of Religions and Sciences"
(Berlin: Springer International Publisher, in press), 5,000 words.

"Latina/o Religious Practice," in Charles H. Lippy and Peter Williams, ed, Encyclopedia of Religion in America (Washington DC: CQ Press, 2010), 6,500 words.

"Borderland Religions," in Wade Clark Roof and Mark Juergensmeyer, eds., Encyclopedia of Global Religions (Thousand Oaks CA: Sage Publications, in press), 1,600 words.

"Espiritualismo (Spiritualism)," in Miguel de la Torre, ed. Hispanic American Religious Cultures (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO Reference Publishers, 2009), 8,000 words.

"Ruth Leon," Latinas in the United States: An Historical Encyclopedia, Vicki L. Ruiz and Korrol, Virginia Sanchez, eds. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006), 500 words.

"Introduction;" "Latinas and Latinos" (6,000 words) "Ecstasy" (2,000 words), in Gary Laderman and Luis Leon, eds. Religion and American Cultures: Multicultural American Traditions and Popular Religious Expressions.

"Ecstasy," and "Shamanism," in Contemporary American Religion, Wade Clark Roof, ed. (New York: Macmillan Library Reference USA, 2000). 1,500 words each.

The Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures, Carrasco, Davíd, ed. (NY: Oxford University Press, 2001). Mal Ojo ("evil eye"), and Susto ("spirit loss"), 500 words each.

Book Foreword: Robert Trotter and Juan Antonio Chavira. Curanderismo: Mexican American Folk Healing., 2nd ed. (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1997)