Hispanic and Latino are often used interchangeably, even though they actually mean two different things. Hispanic refers to people who speak Spanish or those who are descended from Spanish-speaking populations. Latino, on the other hand, refers to people who are from Latin America or those who are descended from people from Latin America.

In a literal sense, the word, Hispanic, sounds like someone’s panic. It refers to people who speak Spanish or descended from a lineage of people who speak the language. The English translation
evolved from the Latin word, Hispanicus, which refers to people who lived in Hispania, an Iberian peninsula in present-day Spain, during the Roman Empire.

In my opinion, Hispanic Heritage Month should be called the month of Latino Nationality because it represents the people and/or their ancestors who come from a Latin American country
such as Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Central America, and South America.

As a woman of color and Latina, I prefer to be called Latin American rather than Hispanic since I come from an island in the Dominican Republic, an island in the Caribbean. My arrival in the
U.S. at age fifteen presented a radical culture shock. The first change was being referred to as a minority and categorized as lower class. I had never before experienced such discrimination. I
decided that I had the power to determine who and what I was. I told myself that I am who I say I am and not what other people or institutions say that I am. I am truly grateful that my family instilled in me a sense of self-worth. We had a very clear foundation of who we are and, although influenced by Catholicism that resulted from colonization, we always felt free to choose whom we wanted to be and how we showed up in the world.

My parents grew up in an era of dictatorship, but even that did not compel them to accept the labels and roles that others put on them. We were middle-class, business-oriented, and made a
comfortable living before coming to this country. It was quite an adjustment from one of comfort to one of lack.
When my parents separated, my mother decided to move to the U.S. to pursue the American dream and citizenship. Because her mother was of Puerto Rican nationality and gave up the right to her own citizenship, we did not come here out of necessity.  When we arrived in this country, we lived in an area populated by Latinos, so we fit right in and there was no rush to learn English.

Since my brothers and I were still young, we were able to adapt to the culture and language more easily than our mother. She never finished high school. Our dad chose to remain in the Dominican Republic since he never liked it here. He would visit us a few times.

Living in the U.S. forced us to accept the culture which included labels designed to help us succeed or fail. I learned about inclusion as relates to culture by reading the Daily Word in Spanish. Our dad’s sister, who was already living in the U.S. before we arrived, sent him a subscription. From the time I was seven years old, I remember Dad reading it to us. Each time he read it, I was overcome with a feeling of love, a sense of acceptance, and an air of satisfaction. I kept looking at the Unity Village Prayer Tower pictured in the little magazine and wondered if such a place really existed. I promised myself that someday I would visit that special place.

After seven years of marriage, I found myself in a dark place. I was in the process of divorce and faced with raising two children, ages 3 and 7, all alone. While I was raised Catholic and attended
Catholic schools, I always held to the belief that a relationship with God did not depend on any religion. I called on God to help me out of the darkness. The answer came through a 12-step
program and a counselor who took a group of us to a Unity Center in New York City. It was Rev. Eric Butterworth’s Sunday service at Avery Fisher Hall in the Lincoln Center. Hearing Rev. Butterworth speak brought back the same feelings I had as I listened to my Dad reading the Daily Word. I knew then that I had arrived at that place I had been looking for, and it completely
changed my life. I found it easy to incorporate the 12-Step process with the Unity teachings of Truth, prayer, and meditation.

It has been thirty years since my spiritual journey began in 1992 which led me to graduate from UUMS and become an ordained Unity minister. In an effort to inspire others with the same
feeling of love, acceptance, and satisfaction as my Dad’s reading of the Daily Word, I am committed to serving in any way that I can. For nearly a year, I have been leading a book study in Spanish through the alternative ministry I established. We meet every Monday on Zoom at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time. This month’s theme is Gratitude, and I am always grateful for all that God has done in my life, for Unity, and for all the teachers and ministers who have given of their time and talents to get me to where I am today.

Rev. Yuris Vasquez graduated from Unity Urban Ministerial School in 2018. She was ordained by Unity Worldwide Ministries in 2019. She serves as an UUMS Academic Advisor, assisting students on their journey into ministry. Rev. Yuris (pronounced Joo-Riss) formerly served at Unity Church of Christ in Maywood, NJ, and Unity Panamericano in New York City. She currently teaches Spiritual Education and Enrichment (SEE) courses in Spanish for Unity School of Puerto Rico. Rev. Yuris has an alternative book study ministry in Spanish that focuses on the
study of Metaphysics, Unity Principles, and teachings of Truth.

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