In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we asked our Springtide Ambassadors Program members who identify as Hispanic and/or Latino how their identities affect their religious beliefs or spirituality. Here Diana from Colorado talks about how much of her identity as a Mexican-American is closely tied to elements of Catholicism, even when she didn’t want it to be.
One of my most sentimental memories as a child is waking up every Sunday morning for church. My mom would wake me up at 7:00 a.m. She would put me in a frilly little dress and cute dress shoes or chanclas (sandals), and make sure my hair was slicked down and pulled back in the tightest pigtails.
Even though back then I didn’t realize what I was hearing during the service, now I look back at those memories and wish I would have paid more attention. Seeing the older kids walk in with the priest, light the candles, speak during Mass, and take communion made me wish I could do it too. I remember standing there with my arms crossed when the other kids got to take a communion wafer and a sip of the wine, while I would only be blessed by the priest.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more aware of my surroundings and better able to understand why things are the way they are. I’ve been able to realize that being a person of the Catholic faith is a huge part of my identity as a Mexican American girl. I realized how much it was when I first told my mom that I didn’t feel a part of the religion. As I began to distance myself from the Church, I suddenly became aware of every little piece of my life that involved religion—little things like comments my family made, the things I watched on TV, and parts of daily conversations.
Almost every aspect of my life is surrounded by the idea of my religion. If I leave the house, my mom always says, “Que Dios te bendiga” (“May God bless you”), or if we are wishing for something we want, we always say, “Si Dios quiere” (“If God wants to”). I don’t say that I’m Catholic or identify with Catholicism, but because every part of my life is intertwined with my religion, it’s hard to separate myself from it.
I knew I didn’t identify with any religion when I experienced death for the first time. When I was 14, I lost my cousin to an overdose. Before my cousin’s death, I would constantly read my Bible, annotating every part that stuck with me. But after his death, it hurt to even pick up my Bible. I was told that God does everything when the time is right, but I just couldn’t understand why my cousin had to die so suddenly. At the time, I couldn’t forgive God for taking someone I loved so much. I was in so much pain that I couldn’t accept the fact that my cousin was dead. I needed someone to blame for his death, and it landed on God.
Looking back at that period in my life, I feel guilty for blaming God. But I realize how much being Catholic is about togetherness, solidarity, and community. When I was going through that chapter of not accepting religion, my community stood by me, accepted me, and allowed me to feel what I needed to feel. Now I allow myself to explore and discover Catholicism and be okay with it. As I’ve begun to be more accepting of the religion again, I’ve found some parts that I love.