A Latina Woman of Color in Ministry
When I came to the US from Guatemala, I experienced racial discrimination from those I would describe as privileged. But this wasn’t exclusive to my new surroundings, it happened from my own culture too.
Eventually, I became a leader in my denomination but continued to experience “machismo” and discrimination. I found this to be especially true with Latina women. Like me, many didn’t speak English well. I found many men to be paternalistic towards me and I resented it.
I would always wonder if they could “see” me for who I was, a woman of color, capable of doing anything they were doing, especially in ministry.
I led for many years in my church until the Lord, with an awesome sense of humor, called me to be a pastor at an older age. The experience of being a woman of color in the world of local pastors was very different than the ordained elders in our denomination. When we were taking classes male and female, we would talk about the way ordained elders would look at us and treat us, as if we were less than them.
When the women spoke, I discovered that we all shared similar experiences. Though they occurred in different cities and environments, all shared the experience of feeling “less than”. It was the feeling of having to prove yourself all the time because you’re a woman of color, showing them that “yes I can do it and I can do it better than you.”
I often ask myself “why do we have to do this?” This should never be the case. We must choose to be ourselves and if they don’t like it, so be it. But it isn’t easy. You feel lonely, maybe unsupported by your senior pastor, or like you’re a servant, having to do everything they don’t want to do.
Nevertheless, I am blessed. God has put me in places that I have never thought I‘d be and has allowed me to do better than other people when I get there. In ministry, I’ve always prayed that the Lord grace me to do my best. Ultimately, my strength has come from asserting myself in the fact that I am a Latina woman, a child of God and knowing that I’m very capable of doing many things.
Throughout my ministry journey, I’ve had several, female role models and examples of Latina women’s power and creativity. I thank God for having taken advantage of the opportunities offered to me to at both local and national levels. In many of these events, my conviction deepened that my color, my cultural identity, and my accent although very important were not deficits but assets that I could use to do anything under God’s grace.
I’ve been able to overcome a lot of challenges and I have met women that have gone through so much in their ministry. Yet, I have not had the opportunity to share in-depth conversations with other female pastors who will not judge but find a common story. Until now…
The Colloquy for Clergy Women of Color is precisely the opportunity to discover such commonality in our respective journeys. It can provide support among women that want to learn how to navigate the systems of our different denominations.
It is true that changes are taking place every day and that women are more accepted and able to assume more leadership roles within the church but we still have a long way to go.
Join me and my fellow facilitators for this colloquy experience on September 14-16 and January 25-27, 2021 by clicking here.
Lilian Lucrecia Cotto (Luky) a native of Guatemala, serves as a missionary of the United Methodist Church’s GBGM – National Plan for Hispanic-Latino Ministry and is engaged in church planting in New Jersey.