I was born and raised in La Habana, Cuba. The third of six sisters and two brothers, I received all of my primary and secondary school education at Merici Academy, a school ran by the nuns of the Order of St. Ursula. While I was growing up my father worked in different sugar mills in three different provinces of Cuba and that gave me an opportunity to spend summers away from the capital and to experience widely my country and its people. Brought up in a practicing Catholic home, early on I began to have and nourish a concern for the poor and the oppressed and a love of religious practices. At the same time, particularly from my mother, I learned the importance of struggling (la lucha) for what one believes without ever giving up.
I left Cuba and became a political refugee in 1960. I first lived in the USA where I entered the convent (the Order of St. Ursula), and I went to college earning a B.A. in European History from The College of New Rochelle in New York.
In January 1967 I arrived in Lima, Peru as a missionary. I lived there during three years. This experience has marked me for life. I often say that it was there that the poor taught me the gospel message of justice. It was there that I learned to respect and admire the religious understandings and practices of the poor and the oppressed and the importance of their everyday struggles, of lo cotidiano. It was there that I realized the centrality of solidarity with the poor and the oppressed in the struggle for justice.
I returned to the USA December of 1969. I taught high-school for several years in Louisiana and lived in Spain for 16 months. When I returned to the USA, I settled in Rochester, New York.
Thanksgiving weekend 1975 I was born a feminist. It was at the first Women's Ordination Conference in Detroit, Michigan that I began to realize that oppression was caused not only by poverty but also is the result of sexism. For seven years I worked indefatigably in the women's movement focusing on women's oppression in churches, religion and theology. During this time I began to understand the interconnections of sexism, ethnic prejudice-racism, and economic oppression-classism.
In 1983 I began to pursue a Master of Divinity Degree at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where I also completed a PhD with a concentration in Christian Ethics in 1990. My studies and involvement in the feminist theological movement made me see the need to begin to develop a theology from the perspective of Latinas in the USA. Thus I became an activist-theologian and began to elaborate Mujerista Theology.
In 1991 I began teaching at the Theological and Graduate Schools of Drew University. Immensely enriched by opportunities to speak with women all around the USA as well as in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America, I have continued to elaborate Mujerista Theology. I have done so in dialogue with other women-centered theologies and liberation theologies which have emerged all around the world.
During the last decade I have come to believe that most probably all of my life has been a preparation to return to Cuba, which I have always longed to do. Between 1997 and 2004 I was able every year to visit my country, to participate in workshops, give lectures, teach at the Protestant seminary in Matanzas. Twice I was able to go to Santiago de Cuba and work in a Catholic parish helping with those preparing for baptism and conducting Bible studies. Since 2004, I have not been able to continue this work given the travel restrictions imposed by the government of George W. Bush.
Throughout my life I have stayed very close to my family and I am grateful for its on-going support even when they have not agreed with me. I am the aunt of fifteen and the great-aunt of twenty one! All of them, from 42 to 6 months, concretize the future for me and provide me with a very personal motivation to continue struggling for justice and liberation.
Cuban Palm Tree