Living in the Tension & Abuelita Theology
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your cultural background
I was born to two immigrants, my father from El Salvador and mother from Mexico. My parents were believers since before they met, so my entire life has revolved around church for both faith building and community. My father came to this country from El Salvador when he was 19. He grew up in a very tumultuous manner. His mother was run out of the country and he was left to be raised by his father, who left he and his younger brother for days on end, since he was 9 years old. His mother was finally able to immigrate him into the U.S. ten years later! My mother came to the U.S. when she was 11 years old. She was sent to live with an aunt in California from Mexico. Her parents wanted her to have a good education. She experienced difficulties upon arriving in the U.S., and at such a young age was able to navigate the culture and language that was foreign to her. Both of my parents fully assimilated, speak English perfectly, became naturalized citizens, both retired after working close to 40 years and raised three children who all have a graduate level education.
Perhaps because of the varying degrees of racism they encountered, they instilled in their children we were to be better than anyone else. We were to be punctual. We were to be the best employee, the best student, get the best grades, etc.
In other words, if we failed at something they believed it was not going to be because of what society stereo-typically defined as ‘Hispanic’.
I additionally grew up in the tension of being fully Latina and fully American.
I'm the epitome of the Selena movie quote, "we're too white for the Mexicans and too Mexican for the whites." I never knew this was a "thing" until my senior year in high school. I got a job at a very high profile bank, and the VP I was assigned to told me to try to be careful with my accent when I answered calls. What accent? That was the beginning of me being aware of this tension that exists in our Latino community in the United States.
We are fully educated, learned, aware, contributing members of society, but yet not good enough.
2. In what areas have you served in the local church and your community?
I have a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a Masters in Educational Psychology. I worked in public schools as a counselor and loved it. I found my years doing this work to be a mission field. People are hurting and hungry for God, and these schools gave me an opportunity to be light in very dark places and in dark moments for some people.
Since 2008, I have worked alongside my husband as he serves our church in Southern California and the state of Arizona overseeing Spanish-speaking churches for our denomination. My primary role during these past twelve years has been to serve as the Women's Ministry Coordinator. Within this role, I have made my main focus the care and pastoring of pastors' wives and female ministers while encouraging women in our region. My goal is to help them feel seen, appreciated and loved.
Too often, there are wives of pastors who don't feel called to the ministry and end up feeling like they are just "married to" the pastor. When this is the case, life can get heavy. There are many expectations placed on these women and whether they embrace their role or not, people watch, have opinions, and can be hurtful.
I have tried to identify where each woman is on the spectrum, from fully engaged, to dealing with her reality, and attempt to meet them where they are and love them, accept them and walk alongside them.
3. Can you share how your faith journey was formed by your abuela, and/or parent's? How did your faith develop in the intersections of familia, iglesia, and personal experience with God?
My faith journey was definitely formed by my parents, as they were already dedicated Christians before I was born. My paternal grandmother brought her family to faith, my dad included. He arrived from El Salvador at 19, to be a part of not only his biological family, but a new faith family as well. From their faith, and those conservative, Pentecostal traditions, my parents shaped our traditions.
We always attended smaller, Pentecostal churches within the same denomination. We were faithful. My parents have attended the same church since 1974. For over 35 years, they served as secretary-treasurer. We attended and volunteered for anything our church did.
My paternal grandmother was a strong source of faith for me. When we visited her, I loved to hear her testimonies of the miracles God performed in her life and the life of her family when she was a child. She guided me in adhering to a strict moral code.
She always had her bible open, on the kitchen table.
Her faithfulness and determination shaped me. I am stubborn, in a good way, like her. I don’t give up. If you tell me it can't be done, but I want to do it, I will find a way. Just like my Mama Vicky. This applies to faith for me. I don't give up on waiting to see God's promises fulfilled in my life. I WILL see His promises fulfilled.
5. Why is it important to bridge a generational gap between our abuelas, madres and hijas?
Biblically in Titus we are given a model of mentoring. It states that the older women should teach the younger ones. This is made to be much more difficult than it needs to be.
In our families, if abuela doesn’t teach us how to make tortillas, pupusas, posole, chuchitos, then we lose these beautiful traditions.
If abuela or mamá doesn't show us how to sew a button, make a dress, knit, embroider, weave the basket, braid hair, comb edges, our children and grandchildren will be deficient of a portion of our culture. We need the older women to teach us.
In the church, the same occurs.
If we don't learn the lessons of the older generations, if we don't sit and hear their stories, and testimonies of what God did, we risk walking in a faith that is absent of the richness that only history can provide. We need to bridge the wisdom and rich history of our abuelas and mothers with the abilities and talents of our younger generations.
The older generations need to give space for the young to learn. To walk alongside us as equals, given a voice and an opportunity to serve and do, being willing to pick them up and dust them off when they inevitably make mistakes. No one is perfect. As we learn, we make mistakes. We need to create a space where mistakes are "ok" and attempts are welcomed. Together we are better.
Yvette Santana has served the Lord and the church since her youth. Her passions are education and equipping women to ensure that all have an equal opportunity to fulfill their dreams and live up to their God-given potential. She holds a Masters degree in Educational Psychology and a Bachelor degree in Sociology. She served as a Guidance Counselor in a K-12 urban school setting, working specifically with at-risk youth. She has served in ministry together with her husband for over 29 years as Evangelists, Youth and Education directors, Evangelism Directors, and Lead Pastors, where they oversaw the rebranding- revitalization of two congregations.
Currently, she serves as Women’s Discipleship Coordinator for the Church of God SW Region. Yvette is married to Samuel and together they have two sons Samuel II and David, who as young adults continue to bring them much joy. In her “spare” time she enjoys reading, traveling and going on dates with her husband.