Meet Dr. Verónica A. Gutiérrez, Professor of Latin American History

by Kimberly Rios

As the number of Latino students attending college reaches an all-time high, Verónica A. Gutiérrez, Ph.D., Azusa Pacific University’s new professor of Latin American history, is excited to share the Latino culture with her students as it relates to history and faith.

Gutiérrez, who grew up in Arizona but whose family has lived in Texas since colonial times, said that as a child she struggled to understand and value her Latino heritage. Although currently a scholar of Latin American history, Gutiérrez did not learn Spanish until she was 30. She said that her family believed teaching her the language as a child would make her the target of discrimination. As a result, she came to believe that being American meant she should speak English exclusively.

After taking a class in Spanish while an undergraduate student at the University of San Francisco, Gutiérrez began to gain interest in the history of her ancestors that continued during her graduate work at UCLA. She traveled to Cholula, Puebla, Mexico on a Fulbright Scholarship where she studied the origins of Mexican Catholicism. While there, she realized how profoundly an individual’s culture and a country’s history can impact one’s faith.

“I believe when discussing Mexico, it is impossible to separate history and faith from one another,” said Gutiérrez. “As a professor of Latin American history, I am fortunate because my faith informs my work and my work informs my faith. In addition, by examining the past, it helps us as believers understand such things as what motivated a person to go to unknown lands to preach the gospel, especially in times when that trip could have easily led to death.”

With over a decade of experience teaching at Mount St. Mary’s College, Penn State, UCLA, Loyola Marymount University, and the John Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, Gutiérrez, who is teaching World Civilizations to 1648 and Colonial Latin America at APU, wants to help her students embrace their cultures in their everyday life. To facilitate this, she greets students with regionally-specific music related to that day’s discussion. She also incorporates films, literature, and debate into her classes, creating an interactive learning environment for her students.

Gutiérrez looks forward to serving as a mentor to Latino students on campus who want to learn more about themselves and their culture, as well as helping the APU community celebrate diversity.

“Understanding and appreciating diversity is important on a college campus because it prepares students to enter the workforce, where they will inevitably be exposed to other cultures,” said Gutiérrez. “Valuing diversity also helps individuals be better citizens of the world. As Christians, we are called to love one another, and understanding one another's personal histories and identities can help us achieve this."