The two languages that roll off my tongue connect me to two cultures but house me in neither.
As promised, this is Part Two to the three-part series Limited but Free, where three women will share about their experiences being a minority. They will also share how God has been a pivotal part of shaping their identity in a world that constantly tears them down. It brings me deep joy and pleasure to introduce to you yet another one of my partners in Christ…Jessica Moreira!
Jess has been rocking it with me for the past three years at the University of Memphis. She enjoys creative tasks, cooking adventures, sharing her faith and loving her peers. I was graced with her presence this past summer as we were ministry partners in South Africa. Her warming hospitality and contagious laugh will leave a lasting mark on whomever she encounters. Jessica is the perfect combination of sweet and spicy. I am honored to share her story.
Misconstrued Identity and Belonging
Being a triple minority in our society is hard, and being one in Memphis, Tennessee makes it a little more difficult. While I cling to truth when the devil tries to fill my mind with lies, I still face daily struggles as a minority. When asked where I am from, my answer is never good enough. It goes something like this:
“Jessica, where are you from?”
“I’m from California.”
“No, where are you really from?”
Although I’ve had this conversation multiple times, and I am proud to say that I’m Salvadorian-American, I feel like I am being pushed away from my home based on my face and my accent. While the goal isn’t to blend in, my identity is often misconstrued because I don’t look or act American enough, even though this is the only home I’ve ever known. The two languages that roll off my tongue connect me to two cultures but house me in neither. It is not okay for people to feel shameful or less-than in their home country. When asked my ethnicity, my answer is a little more complex than average, and I want people to recognize that.
Overlooked, Misunderstood and Boxed In
I was born in California, relocated to Nashville, and currently reside in Memphis. Even more, I am proud to be a first-generation, Salvadorian-American in a four-year university. Although some of the following statements sound rude, they are real assumptions that I have encountered by people who have no desire or care to learn:
No, El Salvador isn’t in Mexico.
No, my parents don’t only speak Spanish.
No, I don’t love spicy food.
No, you don’t know about my heritage just because you eat guacamole and drink margaritas.
No, you don’t know my heritage based on what you see on the news and what your president tells you about my people.
No, you don’t know my heritage just because you’ve been on a mission trip to Central America.
I am rarely asked questions about my heritage, differences about my country, or family traditions. If I want to be known, I have to initiate conversations or my story will be overlooked. As a latino minority, I feel like I have to work twice as hard to be set apart and seen as slightly equal. It is tiring to be forced to adapt to everyone else’s ways simply because my heritage is not understood. My differences should be noticed and appreciated.
I get to enjoy and experience him in so many different ways that others may never be able to.
Free. Loved. Understood. Accepted.
However, in knowing Christ and his truth-filled promises for my life, I am able to tackle and overcome the struggles I face as a Christian, Latina woman. The anger that begins to fill my mind and heart when someone treats me unfairly, discriminates against me, or doesn’t allow me to be who I am is only calmed by the sweet aroma of Christ. Hiding God’s word in our hearts is vital. If we don’t, we will easily believe the lies the world tells us. When I feel like I don’t belong or have a voice, I have to remind myself that my worldly identity was traded by the precious act of adoption. I am now a Daughter of the Most high, who is deeply loved, never misunderstood, and always accepted.
I am given the freedom to feel and express my emotions without shame. I am still a christian latina and I don’t ever have to give that up, but now my identity holds so much more weight and meaning. My God, who created the world and its continents did not intend for us to all be the same, yet he uniquely placed us in different parts of the world with different stories, to ultimately bring him glory and showcase his greatness. I get to enjoy and experience him in so many different ways that others may never be able to.
I can live in the confidence that I am loved by God (1 John 4:10).
He says that I am his daughter and he chose me (John 1:12).
I am holy and dearly loved and he’s given me a home (Col. 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4).
Although I love both of the countries that I am tied to, Christ reminds me that those are my temporary homes, as I am not of this world (1 Peter 2:11).
When he chose me, he bought me with the price of his precious blood and I now belong to him (1 Corinthians 6:19;20; 7:23).
Because I’ve been given full access to the God of the universe, I can freely come to him in prayer and be comforted (Eph 2:18).
I don’t have to fight to be known by man because he already knows me, cares for me, and dwells in me (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19).
He’s been thinking for me since before I was conceived, and I can trust that his plans for me are good (Ps. 139).
My prayer and encouragement is that we accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted us, in order to bring the highest praise to him (Romans 15:7). Let’s embrace our differences and learn from each other. Let us not forget that we are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). We are called to a higher calling. We have been given exceedingly great and precious promises by God by which we are partakers of his divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). We are not alone and we may approach God with boldness, freedom, and confidence (Eph. 3:12). Despite the color of our skin or walk of life, Christ is our common ground and that is enough.
The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.