HADLEY, Mass. (WWLP) - Latinos are rejoicing after the College of Cardinals elected the first Latin American Pope. Many Salvadorians and Mexicans live and work in Hampshire County. Those we spoke with say Pope Francis will change the dynamic of the religion.
"We were working at Bueno y Sano when we heard the news that the holy pope was Latino. We were very happy, very excited because he's God's blessing," said Florentina Saravia of Amherst.
And Saravia shared that excitement with the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. The election of Pope Francis marked a number of firsts for the Catholic Church. He's the first Latin American Pontiff, the first Jesuit and the first Pope to name himself Francis.
"He's humble and that's going to be for the better. He's not going to overlook the poor," said Claudia Avalos, who's from El Salvador but lives in Amherst.
It is estimated that over 40% of all Catholics come from Latin America and the Caribbean. And Latinos here in western Mass. say the election of Pope Francis will mean a new stage for the Catholic Church.
"Catholicism has dropped a lot, especially among young people. We need a Pope that will change that like Pope John Paul II, he worked a lot for the young people," said Tony Garay.
Garay owns Latino Market in Hadley. He says the new Pope's humble ways will mean he'll fight for the poor. The United Nations estimates that close to one-third of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean lives in poverty.
"We know he'll spread the message wherever he is, in whatever country he visits. He'll do everything in his power to help the needy," said Maria Teresa Cruz of Amherst.
There's hope that Pope Francis could also help counter the on-going drug war plaguing Central America.