You’ve probably never heard the name Veronica Flores Rodriguez de Almeida. And — like me — if you have heard it, you’ve misplaced it in your memory bank.
But in a better world, I believe her name would be a household name.
Currently, she and her husband are in the Philippines serving The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the past she has been a teacher, a real estate agent and Utah’s honorary consul for El Salvador.
Her list of church callings over the years would fill a roll of cash register tape.
Last week, in a book sent my way (“In the Spirit of Jershom,” edited by Mari Vawn Tinney and Scott E. Ferrin), I came across some of her thoughts about Hispanics in America, in the LDS faith and in all of our lives. And since my wife and I have been teaching English to Spanish speakers in Box Elder County for the past year, I carefully read the piece with both eyes.
The poet William Stafford said when we think about certain things we need to find the right way to tilt our heads. And Sister Almeida, I think, shows us the perfect angle to hold them when we think about Hispanic people.
She asks, “What do Hispanic immigrants want?”
Then she answers: “They want respect, love and opportunities. They want to be successful.” She goes on, “At a meeting I had with the former county mayor, Peter Corroon, and the Salvadoran Consul General Oscar Benavides, the mayor asked, ‘What do Salvadorans export?’
“‘People!’ the consul general responded.
"When the United States no longer represents the land of opportunity, immigration will stop.”
Sister Almeida also has some suggestions for hard-headed souls like me.
“Don’t pre-judge,” she writes. “Focus on qualities, not stereotypes. While working for the Family Support Center, I have witnessed firsthand the empowering difference in a child who feels special. It is the difference between a Sterling Scholar and one who ends up in juvenile court.”
As a teacher, she says, she once brought a basket of brown eggs mixed with white eggs to class. When the kids cracked them open, they found all the eggs were alike on the inside.
So it is with God’s children.
“We are all a ‘chosen generation’ possessing desirable qualities like resiliency, generosity, resourcefulness and civility, to name a few,” she writes.
What’s more, she says parents everywhere want the same things for their kids.
“Immigrant parents are aware of the challenges their children face,” she writes, “and they emphasize the importance of trying hard.”
Then she sums things up.
“The propaganda against Hispanics has increased tremendously (but) I hope you begin to see how similar we all are and how important it is that we learn from each other after all, we are all brothers and sisters and equal in God’s eyes. Simple as that!”
Nice job, Sister Almeida.