The novel discusses an independent woman with her nephew who live in a border town and have been looking for her brother who is the father to the child she is raising. However, the woman is worried about the spiritual state of the child who is obsessed with monkhood and gang members who promise him a sense of family. Hybrid spirituality refers to the authentic integration of the spiritual beliefs. This is seen in the actions of these characters which are guided by their beliefs and principles. The author expresses a mix of two beliefs while describing the situation in the borderlands between Mexico and United States.
In the passage “Gabo and I are figuring these things out- he with his suspicious sign of priest potential and me, a woman who has been living alone so long I may as well become beatified, Santa Lucia, who cares for blind dogs. Santa Barbara, whose father locked her in the tower because he desired her so much. When I’ve thought of martyrs and saints, I told Padre Juan Bosco down at the church one time when he reprimanded me for hardly going to mass no more, it seems it would be very, very hard to become one these days”（The Guardians 15-17） the author tries to show a clear picture of the spirituality of the characters as well as the religion . Castillo shows how the characters have varying beliefs that sometimes cause them to fail to attend the religious events. Spirituality is seen to play a big role in the life of these characters as they live in the community and in the families. It enables them to conduct their everyday practices based on their individual decisions. Moreover, spirituality links Regina and Gabo with other believers who share the same beliefs; Padre Juan Bosco. Regina tries to explain to Padre Juan Bosco that just because she does not attend mass it does not mean that she has diverted from her faith. Her expression in this passage shows that she feels like a saint for her abstinence. Moreover, Gabo’s spirituality has led him to become very religious since he anticipates becoming a priest.
In addition, Castillo tries to express the Mexican American spirituality in the novel. Her main purpose is to create a space for constant conversation engaging the essential intersection of Mexican culture and the catholic religion. Regina plays an important role where she combines virginity with motherhood and caring love. In the passage, “Over twenty years of Father Bosco as my confessor and he never once let up on me about my not knowing a man. ʺHow could you not, Regina? ʺ His silhouette would lean against the screen, all ears. ʺYou were married.”(The Guardians, 99-102), the author uses this character to show how genuine holiness can be attained by a modest and decent individual in real life in opposition to institutionalize self-denial as in priesthood
The passage, “Maybe you used to be a martyr or a saint in another life, ʺ Gabo said when I talked out loud about these ponderings. ʺAccording to the Church, there is only one life and this is it,” I told him”,(The Guardians, 17)indicates that Regina’s nephew believes in her purity since his reply to the thoughts of his aunt illustrates that she is a saintly person or has dreams of becoming a saint. The author does not want the character to recognize her divinity therefore Regina ends the conversation abruptly. This helps in avoiding to make the character look perfect in her behaviour and beliefs. The author does this so as to create a balance between religion and the character’s spirituality
The author also wants to portray that personal spirituality is better than fully following the religion where she writes, “My dad and my tía are a lot alike when it comes to not trusting the Church. ʺMillions,ʺ they each say, like they had been saying it all their lives, ʺmillions of mexicanos among the faithful, living in poverty. And the Church – so rich.ʺ ʺReligion is the opium of the masses.ʺ Mi papá liked to quote Marx”. （The Guardians,29）Regina’s encounters with the priests and other clergymen make her lose some trust in the church. Her suspicion had been aroused by her home priest who is untrustworthy thereby making her to have not trust the church fully.
In conclusion, spirituality enables people to act right in their everyday activities while religion can be referred to the institutionalized spirituality. The author uses the characters to link the differences between the personal beliefs and the institutionalized spirituality. Regina plays an important role in bringing out a clear picture of the divinity in people as opposed to some institutionalized church. Gabo is also used to outline the difficulties that people face in choosing between religion and other worldly situations.