12/23/2011 04:15 pm ET

Nativity Scenes With A Cultural Flavor

When Shirley Camargo, a Colombian who lives in Miami, set up a nativity scene in her living room last month, she was attempting to recreate a family tradition performed by her aunt. She bought a set of figurines from Costco and then, working from memory and some input from family members, she built the compact display that is now the focal point of her living room.

In engaging in this exercise of devotion, Camargo has joined legions of Latinos who live in the U.S. and whose nacimientos (some parts of Latin America call it pesebres, others portal) extend beyond their faith to serve as statements of cultural pride. As Latinos get more established in the U.S., nativity scenes once displayed only in homes are increasingly put up in public and are incorporating elements from other Latin American countries – resulting in displays as diverse as America’s population.