Being a Catholic and Biracial Woman

Letter from Gabriella Ramirez

Photo by Julie Lai

Photo by Julie Lai

(Click on the letters to enlarge)

My beautiful sisters,

I am Catholic. I am Latina. I am White. These three sentences seem to always jump around depending on what I value more about my identity at the time. The “I am Catholic” always tends to be the number one phrase in my heart but the last two, about my ethnicity, are always flip flopping and there never seems to be a definite “I identify as this” statement.

My name is Gabriella Ramirez but most people call me Gabby. I grew up in a town that is populated by mostly whites, I attend a college that is consists of mostly whites, I do not speak Spanish fluently, and my Spanish accent (when I can roll my r’s that day) is not very good. Basically, I am a whitewashed Hispanic or at least that is what I call it.

I never viewed myself as different than others around me. I am grateful that God gave me the opportunity to not feel singled out or out of place because I tan a little easier than others or I add more hot sauce on my food than all my friends combined. There was one time though, where I felt out of place. The first time where I truly realized that there was something different between me and my peers. It was eighth grade and I was in my Spanish 1 class. As a class we had to fill in the blank for each sentence that was given to us. As my teacher was saying each sentence out loud, one sentence had the word Ecuador in it. One girl in my class exclaims to her friends, “Ecuador? What kind of a name is Ecuador?” and they all laughed. I wasn’t hurt or offended at that moment, I was just shocked. Here I was in a room filled with people I knew since kindergarten and they didn’t even know that Ecuador was a country. They didn’t even know that my dad was born in that country. They didn’t even know I was half Ecuadorian.

What else did they not know about my heritage? Did they know that when I say I am part Mexican that doesn’t mean my parents immigrated over to the U.S. from Mexico it was just one of my grandparents? Did they know that I originally only knew the sign of the cross in Spanish? They probably think it’s weird that on Christmas Day I don’t eat the honey glazed ham and I instead eat tamales.

I find it interesting how Catholicism has embedded itself into different cultures with different traditions and how we are all praising one God in our own way. For me it has been a struggle trying to find myself and where I belong. I have felt this tug to be like everyone around me but I also wish that I spoke Spanish, so I can connect to the rest of my family. I want to know more about my heritage in the Catholic Church. I haven’t attended a Spanish mass in a long time, but I want to go. Only I don’t want to spend the whole mass trying to translate every word. I want to go and feel God’s presence and fully embrace the beauty of a mass spoken in Spanish. Because I don’t need to understand every word for God to enter my heart. This my culture and I am a part of it. God will do the rest.

I think it took me a while to be proud of where my family is from and I thank God for helping me realize that I am both: Latina and White. I don’t have to choose or act like one or the other depending on the situation. I just have to be me. God loves me for who I am so why shouldn’t I love myself for who I am? I love that I can eat spicy food like my Mexican side of my family and I love that when I talk I say “like” in every sentence because that’s what a white girl from SoCal does.

For every woman who is stuck between two worlds, two cultures, understand that the Catholic Church is universal. There should never be a division between your identities. We accept all, we love all, and we are all one body in Christ.

There is this one verse from Galatians that says:

“For as many of you as have been baptized in Christ have become clothed with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither servant nor free; there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” – Galatians 3:27-28

We are all one in Christ Jesus. My friends, peers, and neighbors, we are all one in Christ Jesus. I should not have to choose one part of myself to be that day because we are all one. So, while I may “look Latina” and “act white” I am one person who is loved by God.

I am Catholic. I am Latina AND White. This is who I am.

With love,

Gabriella (Gabby) Ramirez

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Get to know Gabby

Full name: Gabriella Ramirez

Age: 19

Occupation: 2nd Year College Student majoring in Behavioral Neuroscience with minors in Spanish and Chemistry

Location: Southern California

How does your Catholic faith affect the way you live your day-to-day life?

For me, the Catholic faith has affected the way I live my day-to-day life with little things. I am all about saying a quick prayer before an exam or stepping into the chapel or church at my school to pray when I have free time. Even just trying smile. This quote by St. Thérèse of Lisieux pretty much sums it up, “Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”

Has there been a particular teaching of the Church that has intimately transformed the way you see yourself and others? If so, please describe.

The idea that the Holy Spirit is inside all of us is something that I am always in awe of.  This makes me view others and myself in a new light because everyone can make a difference, no matter how big or small, thanks to the Holy Spirit. God is working through all of us to spread his love. When I feel the Holy Spirit, it is as if a flame has ignited inside of me and I am ready to spread the joy I feel inside. When I feel the Holy Spirit in others, I am inspired to live out my best life though Christ and share my love for the Church like others have done for me.

What’s your favorite way to pray?

Quick little prayers are my favorite! I have never been good at elaborate long prayers that include inspirational ways to say the simple things (I’m working on it). But small prayers throughout the day when walking to class or in line for food is my go to way to pray. 

What’s your favorite way to spend a Saturday off?

Curled up with a good book alternating between coffee and tea.

Fill in the blank

My morning routine consists of: making my bed, getting ready, drinking coffee or tea (depends on how tired I am), snack on cheerios, walk to class/work, eat a bigger breakfast after class/work

I’m currently obsessed with: Harry Potter and dogs (this is more of a constant obsession not just a current one).

I feel most inspired when: I just went to adoration and I had a cup of coffee. Adoration alone is already inspirational and coffee is always energizing, but when both are combined, it is truly an inspirational feeling.

My favorite part about my life right now is: not worrying about being a full adult just yet is my favorite part about my life right now. College is already hard with studies and extracurriculars so paying for internet and other utilities once I stop living on campus sounds scary. I am happy I can still be a kid even if it is just for a small moment. I mean, it’s all about that childlike trust that we need to have in God right? 

The advice I would give to the millennial Catholic woman is: stand firm in your faith and keep your chin up because God is always there even when it seems like he is not. In any situation where I seemed to struggle in my faith, I always think of the “Footprints in the Sand” poem. It is simple yet it expresses a powerful message that while it seems like we are alone, God is always there.

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