Graduate Student in Religion and Culture
Yolanda is the child of Yolanda and Miguel. Born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico and raised as the only daughter of Methodist ministers, her journeys across houses, cities, schools and churches raised a curiosity that never seemed to cease. Receiving a call to ministry but having experienced the institutional process through both of her parents, she decided to first pursue a ‘secular’ career, which led her to a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico. During that time, unable to deny her calling and with a scholarship opportunity, she decided to move to Durham, North Carolina, where she obtained an MDiv from Duke Divinity School in May of 2018.
Her history as a Puerto Rican woman, her newly acquired status as a member of the diaspora and the experiences of life as a “local international student” that—according to others—didn’t look the part of “Latina” in North Carolina led her to consider PhD work that would not only answer some questions but would also raise the voices of the colony that only gets remembered during Spring Break. Pursuing a PhD in Religion in Culture, Yolanda hopes to explore Afro-Latinidad and the relationship of that identity with religion, particularly Christianity. What does it mean to accept “Africanity” in a colonial nation under the power of the US, a white-dominated empire? How do we think of “darker” Latinxs and their experience of colorism not only in society but in the particular culture of the Church? How do we reconcile the colonial history of Christianity and the colonial history of Puerto Rico in the bodies of non-white Puerto Ricans? Why is blackness, “Africaness,” taboo? How is this heritage seemingly erased but silently present in our worship and beliefs? What is the place of syncretism? Why is lo negro sacredly prohibited?
Yolanda is part of the Women of Color Scholars program of the United Methodist Church and is a first-year doctoral scholar of the Hispanic Theological Initiative.