Daisy Machado, Spelunker

Introduction by Santiago O. Piñón Alumni/ae Council member and Assistant Professor of Religion, Texas Christian University

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Me da un gran orgullo de introducir a la Dr. Daisy Machado, mi mentora y amiga. It gives me a great honor to introduce Rev. Dr. Daisy Machado as the recipient of the Distinguished Alumna Award. She is Professor of Church History at Union Theological Seminary, where she also served as academic dean.

Her life has embraced momentous occasions, such as we have experienced at this General Assembly with the election of our new General Minister and President, Rev. Teresa Hord Owens. At this moment, we celebrate another momentous occasion.

Dr. Machado is the first Latina to be ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She is the first US Latina Protestant to receive a PhD in the study of religion, which she received from the University of Chicago in the History of Christianity.

Dr. Machado was the first Director of the Hispanic Theological Initiative, a multi-million dollar initiative funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, which seeks to increase the number of Latinos/as faculty in religious studies.

She is the first Latina to direct the Hispanic Summer Program. Through it, Dr. Machado is involved in healing the divisions and misunderstandings within the Hispanic community, as well as healing the rift between Hispanics and non-Hispanics.

These momentous occasions have inspired many to characterize her as a trailblazer. A trailblazer is someone who goes into a wilderness in order to mark a trail. But we should recognize her for what she truly is: a spelunker.

Having grown up in Texas and in southern New Mexico, I know firsthand the wonderful and beautiful Carlsbad Caverns in the Chihuahua desert at the Guadalupe mountains. Over 120 miles of caves have been explored and mapped. The person who does that is known as a spelunker.

A spelunker goes into unchartered territory, and can only see as far as the beam from the flashlight reaches. There are no maps for the spelunker as she is in the process of producing the map. They have no idea where they are going, nor do they know if anyone will follow. A spelunker simply goes without knowing where they will end.

People prefer trailblazer because it sounds sexier. Nonetheless, Dr. Machado is a spelunker. She goes before others. She draws a map. And leaves it for others to follow. A spelunker never worries if others will follow the map. They simply move forward and keep mapping.

I want you to know, Dr. Machado, that your spelunking has not been in vain. Women and men, young and old, look to you and the maps that you are drawing in order to gain some kind of direction for our own agendas in both academia and ministry. Spelunkers never know who is reading their maps, but on this momentous occasion we want you to know there is a great cloud of witnesses who has recognized your maps.

It is because of you and your work that so many of us have direction. Your book, Of Borders and Margins: Hispanic Disciples in Texas, 1888-1945, demonstrates the importance of reaching across differences as we allow ourselves to be influenced by others.

Your chapter, “The Unnamed Woman: Justice, Feminists and the Undocumented Woman,” in A Reader of Latina Feminist Theology, which you co-edited, has influenced countless students and professors. I know this to be a fact because every semester I assign your chapter as required reading in all my courses. Your correlation between the unnamed woman of Judges 19 and Elena, a real person who has had her nose cut off and was raped repeatedly, shows us how we can use the biblical text to address real life situations.

Your projects such as “God Behind Bars,” which examines the religious realities of Latina and African American women inmates, motivates us to seek justice and minister to those are forgotten.

And, your praxis is clearly evident by the fact that every place you have lived, you have started a Disciples congregation—and each remains vibrant even after you leave. As a friend of mine stated, “Her testimony is as important as her scholarship.” You produce works that are not only scholarly in nature, but also practical, in that you address real life situations.

On this momentous occasion, I ask that our spelunker pause for a moment. Turn your attention behind you. There, you will see many people who are benefitting from your mapping. We are following the paths that you have laid out before us.

In one of my favorite poems, Ode, Arthur O’Shaughnessy writes, “We are the music-makers / And we are the dreamers of dreams.” On this momentous occasion, I want you to know that you are the music-maker. You are the Dreamer of Dreams. It is because of this that the Alumni/ae Council of the Disciples Divinity House of the University of Chicago has recognized you, Dr. Daisy Machado, with the Distinguished Alumna Award.