My Renewed Faith in Santa Fe
By Javier Gonzales
When a Bishop named Jorge from Buenos Aires took the name Francis, he made an immediate connection with Santa Fe. But when Pope Francis visited Brazil recently, he spoke directly to me, when he said, “who am I to judge?”
You see, when you come from a traditional family with deep roots in this community, the process of accepting that you are gay is complicated with fears about disappointing those you love, or becoming disconnected with a sense of place that is as much a part of me as my sexuality.
Growing up in this town, I felt myself fully embraced by la herencia, the traditional ways that defined the history of Santa Fe. Much of it is beautiful, a celebration of family, a spirit of community, a sense of obligation to those who came before us and responsibility to those who come after us. Knowing you are a part of a continuum gives a young person a sense of place and a sense of pride. These are all gifts I hope to pass on to my two daughters.
But along with that sense of pride also comes, real or perceived, the hint that those who step away from the expected path would be judged poorly, seen as unappreciative or disrespectful, or worse. As a kid, I never considered a lifestyle different from that of my parents and theirs before me. I thought I’d marry a local girl, have kids, and then grandkids. I tried my hardest not to be different, but the reality was I am, and I have a failed marriage to prove it.
Single again, I took steps towards accepting who I am. Yet I still worried about any embarrassment I would bring to my family, questioned whether being gay was a choice as many still believe it is, and whether I was right in the eyes of God.
So I gathered the courage to speak with my parents, who responded with a much needed abrazo. I spoke to my friends, who after an initial awkward silence, asked, where are we going for lunch? I spoke to my daughters, who like many in their generation, asked what the big deal was.
To have this sense of distance removed from those most important in my life is an incredible relief, and a reminder, that there is not true understanding without open, honest communication.
The life of St. Francis teaches us to discard the superficial and recognize the dignity in all of humanity. And in naming the cathedral in Santa Fe in his honor, our ancestors embraced that message. For over 400 years we have been a multi-cultural community that has thrived on our diversity. It is that spirit that has made us the City Different, a town that can embrace all kinds of people, from the children of traditional, culturally conservative Hispanics to the kids of hippies, from businessmen to artists, from natives and the old families that built this town to newcomers who help keep the economy alive. Our very existence as a community is proof that we are better when we value and accept one another for who we are without judgment.
I am blessed. And despite how long it’s taken me, I have come to realize that my internal conflicts were not necessarily due to my faith, but perhaps the result of failing to give my community the full faith it deserved. With both my sense of place and my sense of self intact, I am happy to report that my faith in Santa Fe has never been stronger.
Follow Javier on Twitter @Javiermgonzales