This blog was written by Ana Alicia Hinojosa, Mennonite Mission Network's director of constituent engagement, in celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept.15-Oct. 15.
My experience having grown up Menonita (Mennonite) was different than that of the typical Mennonite in the north — who people in my region refer to as "White Mennonites." It was hard living in an area where everyone was either Catholic or Pentecostal. My friends and some of my family did not understand what it meant to be Mennonite. When asked, my response would be, "We don't fight; we believe in bringing peace."
Being a pacifist made me a target to get picked on. I would be made fun of to see if I would break and throw a punch. But I would always hear the wise words of my father, "Mijita, es major un loco que dos" ("My dear, one mad person is better than two").
One of the ways I learned to live out my Anabaptist and peacemaking faith, as an oft-bullied child, was by sharing monster cookies — cookies with extra ingredients like chocolate chips, M&Ms and oats. I learned to make these cookies from Marylin Short, a winter VSer (Voluntary Service participant — a precursor to Mennonite Voluntary Service and SOOP), who became like an aunt to me and a sister to my mom. To this day, I still have her handwritten recipe, which I still use, and I share those cookies with my neighbors during the holidays or just to tell them that they are in my prayers.
Marylin Short's monster cookie recipe.
I like carrying whoopie pies — soft chocolate cookies with whipped marshmallow fluff sandwiched in-between — with me during the holidays to give to people who are homeless. In our Hispanic culture, we love gathering in the kitchen and at the table, while sharing homemade tortillas. This is where acquaintances become friends and friends become familia (family). This is what I experienced growing up as a first-generation Hispanic Mennonite in my hometown of Brownsville, Texas, where I attended Iglesia Menonita del Cordero.
I remember making tamales and learning to bake with our VSers and Winter VSers, and eating together after we were done. Many did not know one another's languages, so at the age of eight, I would serve as a translator. The experience taught me so much about the cultural diversity that exists within the Mennonite church.
It was then that I fell in love with my Mexican-Mennonite cultural roots. We did many things differently from the other Mennonites I met. We worshiped a little bit louder and with more instruments: drums, electric guitar and accordion; and God's word was shared with great passion. I am glad that it was different — and sometimes difficult — because this has made me the Hispanic leader and Chicana woman that I am today.