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In Honor of Latino Heritage Month, Evelyn Perez Shares Her Thoughts on Her Heritage and Faith

Having immigrated to the U.S as a small child, I have always wondered about the history of my family. The first time I went back to Guatemala, I was five years old. I realized how different life was from our life in the U.S. There was no electricity to watch cartoons, no warm running water, and a very early bedtime because mornings started as early as 5 am when the sun began rising. Children my age were working in the fields or tending to livestock. They fed sheep, cattle, and chickens before heading to school. Women were up before anyone else in the household, heading to the corn mill first thing in the morning to make masa, a dough from corn grown in the fields.

This summer, when I traveled to our village of Hermon in Tejutla San Marcos, Guatemala, I experienced a profound appreciation of the legacy of my great-grandmother, Magdalena Solis. My two sons, Andres, 13, and Fernando, 10, were with me, and the trip was vital in honoring our history and family roots. As Rev. Charles Dates states, “History is theology taught in illustration.” My children were eager to meet family in Guatemala for the first time. So, months in advance as we prepared for the trip, I shared family stories with them. 

As an adult, I continue to admire the great strength of the women from my village. In particular, my great-grandmother was a well-respected elder in the community. After she was widowed, she raised six children on her own, and she was a great woman of faith who helped plant the first church in the surrounding villages.

I take invaluable lessons from my bisabuela as I now have the opportunity to work in ministry as a woman and mother.

She is a woman with a great legacy, remembered for how she lived out her faith and courageous love for her community. She was an Indigenous woman who didn’t let anything stop her, including the inability to read or write. In the 1920s, attending school wasn’t an option for most women in Guatemala, especially for Indigenous women. The more I heard about this brave, resilient woman who overcame so many obstacles, the deeper my interest to know more about her.

My great-grandmother lived a life that was a testimony to the gospel’s good news. For a living, she made soap from coal and lard, traveled to the nearest town, and sold it weekly. The profits went to raising her children and investing in local ministry. She was one of the first women to become a church planter in the nearby villages. Her way of life demonstrated intentional care for her community. She believed it was integral to living out her faith.

Care was necessary for humankind and vital for all of the surrounding creation. The village elders found it meaningful to care well for all living things. They believed honoring God meant caring well for all living things. To this day, young and old in the village treat the land with respect, acknowledging that we live in harmony with all of God’s creation. Many did not read or write, but they believed in God through every living thing.

This summer, I also had an opportunity to visit the church my great-grandmother planted decades ago. We found women, men, and children serving alongside each other in ministry. Not all are deacons or preachers, but they believe all are integral to the church. As people in the village continue to work in the fields and the land, they bring profits from the harvest to the church to share among the congregation and community.

In my current role as coordinator of Latino ministry in the Pacific Southwest Conference, I have the honor of serving alongside Latina/Latino pastors, leaders, and volunteers. As I serve in this role, I think of the beginnings of ministry for my great-grandmother. She believed women and men were integral to the Church in ministering and leading, together sharing the good news of the gospel. It was complicated at times, but that did not stop her from persevering and partnering with how God was at work. She understood her calling to redemptive and joyful work in her community. I am grateful for the tenacity and courage I learn from when I think of God’s revelation through those who came before me.

About the Author

  • Evelyn Perez

    Evelyn Perez is passionate about equipping, raising, and advocating for young Latino leaders in the church. She currently serves as Coordinator of Latino Ministries for the Pacific Southwest Conference.

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