Part of me still thinks it’s a little strange to be a part of a site dedicated to the Reformed thoughts of ethnic minorities. Heck, I didn’t even realize I was a minority until a couple of years ago.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve always known I was Mexican-American. In 1928, my pregnant grandma crossed the border to give birth, ensuring that my dad had dual citizenship. Not long after, the family moved into Arizona for good. So I’m not sure what generation Mexican-American that makes me, but I am one!

My mom is also an immigrant. She married my dad in 1980 and moved with him to the United States from Wales. So I guess I’m also Welsh-American! My college roommate was so amazed by the chain of events that would lead to a Mexican-American marrying a British woman that he gave me an affectionate nickname: Brixican.

The moniker fits. Because of family drama (we all have it) I never really got to know my Dad’s side of the family. He didn’t succeed in teaching me Spanish and had learned that speaking without a Mexican accent afforded him more opportunities in the locked-in-time state of Arizona. By the time I was born, my mom had lost most of her accent too. Her family was still in Wales, so our little family unit was pretty isolated from the rest of our bloodline. There I was, a Brixican with no accent, no knowledge of the Spanish language, and very limited access to Mexican and British culture.

It wasn’t until I began seminary that I started to realize I wasn’t white. I offered an opinion in class and was asked if that was a “Latino perspective”. Then I was required to write a paper about my racial experience and quickly realized that I had very little to say! At least at first blush.

But that paper started a process of ethnic self-realization. I never thought of myself as anything other than a run-of-the-mill white American. I can’t say that bothered me much; my wife is exactly that. But then I started replaying my childhood in my head and I realized something that to many minorities is obvious: I’m not white.

The few ignorant and racist kids in junior high called me “wetback” (a favorite joke for some) or “spick” (only a couple times) because I wasn’t white (I didn’t even realize these were racial slurs at the time).

The border patrol sat outside our newly built house in the country because my dad and I weren’t white.

People on my dad’s side of the family took issue with my mom because she was.

I was pulled over more by the Border Patrol, I dodged sideways looks for not speaking Spanish, and assumptions were made about a guy named “Marcos Ortega” because I wasn’t white. And I didn’t really know it! But now I have daughters, one of whom has skin even darker than me, and I can’t pass down a cultural identity because I never really had one to begin with. Thankfully, our identity isn’t solely defined by our ethnicity. Instead, as Christians, our identity is in Christ. This is the most fundamental identity I can pass down to my children.

It is this embrace of Christianity, particularly as expressed in Reformed Presbyterianism, that has helped me realize that my ethnic identity – Latino, Hispanic, Brixican – is a tool to be used for Kingdom good. I have the opportunity to speak to Latino/as that have largely ignored the Reformed Tradition. I have the opportunity to stand with Hispanics for justice as we seek equal representation, equal dignity, and equal respect in the United States. My “white” upbringing and lack of accent affords me privilege that many of my fellow Latinos don’t have. Now I must ask, “How can I use this privilege wisely?”

I have a lot more to say. So I hope you keep reading this blog! But be warned: I’ll probably disappoint you in every way. If you want a typical Latino perspective on things (if there is such a thing), I probably won’t be able to deliver. And if you want a buttoned-up stereotypically Reformed perspective (again, I doubt this exists), I’ll probably disappoint you there too. Bear with me; I’m an ethnically-confused Brixican who is relatively new to this whole Reformed thing (another story for another time). Together, as we go on this journey, we’ll continue to learn, be refined, grow in our love for Jesus, and pursue kingdom good.

Marcos Ortega

Marcos Ortega (MDiv, Westminster Theological Seminary) is an Assistant Pastor at Goodwill Church (Evangelical Presbyterian Church) and lives in the Hudson River Valley in New York with his wife and two daughters.

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