According to North Jersey Media Group, a growing segment of the Latino population in the United States are leaving Christianity for Islam. About 8% of all Muslim Americans adults are Latino, according to a 2017 report from the Pew Research Center, increasing by about a third from 2011.
In interviews, Latino converts said they are drawn to Islam because of the intense devotion to God, a simplicity in faith and focus on community that they failed to find in their former faith. But their conversion often is not easy, as they break ties with family and their Christian upbringing.
They are also choosing the faith at a time when Latinos and Muslims alike feel targeted by US President Donald Trump's rhetoric and his increasingly restrictive immigration policies for both groups. Reports of hate crimes are on the rise.
About 94 percent of Latino Muslims cited the desire for a more direct, personal experience of God as a reason for converting, in a survey of 560 converts reported in the Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion in 2017.
Latino Muslim communities have found a home in mostly urban areas like New York City, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles and Houston.
Their backgrounds are diverse. About 56% converted from Catholicism and the rest from Protestant faiths or secular or atheist lives, according to the "Latino Muslims in the United States" report.
They differ, too, in the way they live their lives as Muslim converts. Some still enjoy Christmas as a secular celebration with family, while others choose to abstain.
They are part of a religious shift for Latino Americans. Just under half — 47% — describe themselves as Catholic, down from 57% a decade ago, according to a Pew survey released last month. The share of Latino Protestants has remained steady at about a quarter of the total.
Latino Muslim groups say Islam is, in fact, part of their heritage. They say they are returning to their roots because of the nearly 800-year Moorish rule of Spain that left an Islamic influence on Hispanic language and culture.