Having grown up in the Rio Grande Valley, where the majority of the citizens are Hispanic, I rarely thought about what it meant to be Mexican-American.  It was just who I was.  

I come from a large family. One that is boisterous, proud of its heritage, and one that intertwines Spanish, English, and “Spanglish” in almost every conversation.  My home was a place where higher education was emphasized, though neither of my parents graduated from college. I came to see the importance of obtaining a college degree having witnessed the struggles my parents endured.  I know that my mother believed that if she had graduated from college, life would have likely been kinder to her, and she would have had better opportunities. Therefore, my mother often said, “Mija, you cannot get married until you graduate from college.”  As a result, I decided that college was the ticket to a better life.  When I left the Rio Grande Valley for college, I was filled with great expectancy and excitement about all the possibilities, never anticipating the challenges that would come.  

Through my educational journey, I realized something: I was not like the other students that sat in classrooms with me at the University of Texas, Austin Seminary, nor Regent University.  I was different. I had a last name that some could not pronounce, a mother who had been a migrant farm worker, a grandmother who only had an elementary education, a grandfather who came to this country as an undocumented immigrant, and a culture that often times felt inferior to those of my peers.   It was challenging and often times I did not know if I truly belonged.  

Prior to my experiences with higher education, I realized that it was only on rare occasions, when I left the Rio Grande Valley for school events or family vacations, that I felt the “difference” that I possessed.  However, this feeling of “difference” was fleeting as I returned to my safe, known, largely homogeneous context. It wasn’t until I went away to school that I truly had to face, process, and wrestle with who God made me to be and how my “difference” became part of my unique contribution to the body of Christ. 

In 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 it states, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body – whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free – and we were given the one Spirit to drink.  Even so the body is not made up of one part but many.” In Christ, I grew to understand that I had something unique and important to contribute to the body of Christ. I did not have to prove myself to anyone. I needed only be faithful to who God had created me to be and what he had called me to do.  All my experiences, including the family and culture I was born into, make me who I am. As a result, I have come to embrace my long name, my imperfect past, and the richness of my Mexican-American heritage. 

Now, as God has called me to teach in an institution of higher education, I see all the more clearly how God is using my identity to minister to others. I am thankful to be an example to our students and to help cultivate a learning environment where our Hispanic students feel represented and valued. It is my prayer that this mestiza of experiences, culture, and unique attributes would bring glory and honor to God!  

 

This article was written by Dr. Celeste Gonzalez-Moreno. She is the Director of Undergraduate and Diploma Programs at SCS.