Why am I Latino?
There have been many moments in my life where I have wondered, “Lord, why am I Latino?” Maybe it is not a common question, but for me, it made the difference in me understanding the core of who I am and who I should be. I have wondered. I have waited and sought answers from people, books, and reflected—hoping and yearning, to understand why. Being Mexican, coming to faith in a Chinese heritage church, pastoring at a majority white church, I have always felt different. Different simply because I did not always look the same as my brothers and sisters around me, and I felt like something was missing.
People often talk about how culture often influences being able to feel at home in a church, but in my case with my ethnic heritage, I have been able to look past those things and have found a home in the unknown and new. Going from big city to rural, I have remained open to all in which God has called me to. And I have found comfort in the new and have become more aware of how my upbringing allows me to minister to the body of Christ in ways that only I can, and that is a blessing.
Without trying to sound proud, I am grateful and humbled that Jesus would choose a sinner like me, broken and in the process, to serve Him and His people in this capacity despite whatever my upbringing might have been. But I still desire to understand why.
In my seeking, I was meeting with one of my professors and he pointed me to Mañana by Justo Gonzalez. The book examines different beliefs in theology through the lens of the life and history of Latin America and the Latinos that inhabit it. I had not met many Latino Protestant Christians and I was looking to see if there were any authors who could provide insight into my question. Surprisingly, I was drawn to tears by this statement made about Latinos converting to Protestantism: “It is often a traumatic break that brings about much suffering.” I had no idea how true this statement was for me. From the very moment of conversion, I have felt something like this.
I had to tear myself from the customs of my family that had persisted through generations. Having been brought up Catholic I had to remove myself from things like the veneration of Mary, praying to the saints, praying the rosary, and attending mass. These things and more, had more stock in my life than I had realized because in rejecting those things I no longer was able to share that part of life with my family.
This is where the chasm formed between the culture in which I grew up in and the road I walk as a believer. I separated myself from the things that go against Christ’s sacrifice for me and that would pull me away from Him and in the process, it tore me from the generations of traditions of my heritage. I never knew how to navigate that and am still in the process of figuring those things out. However, in the intersection of culture and Christianity, I have found Christ’s redemption of it. Christ is the author and perfecter of all the happenings that led to the point of my conversion and beyond. All the events that transpired before even my birth were somehow to bring God glory in the renewed life I would one day have. I’m grateful and I’m privileged to think that I have the honor of being the first Christian in my family. And I look forward to continuing this journey and refining the idea of what it means to be Latino in light of Jesus Christ.
I know that the seeking does not end here. Nor does it simply end in the reflection of a single blog post. It will probably take an entire lifetime of hardship, unpacking baggage, pressing into the uncomfortable to understand how my ethnicity will influence my life. I rest assured, however, knowing I have the hope that Christ will see me through all of it, even if I do not get to the bottom of why I am Latino. Only the Lord knows.
*Photo by Tiago Aguiar