Nothing to see here. Just airing out some laundry. (Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash)

An Open Blog Post to My Non-Believer Relatives

And, by “non-believers,” I mean the ones who don’t believe in science.

René F. Najera, MPH, DrPH
6 min readJan 13, 2022

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Growing up in northern Mexico, I had to deal with the two sides of my extended family disagreeing on different matters. The N’s were devout Catholics and militant partisans of the National Action Party (PAN), a right-wing party by Mexican standards. The P’s were devout Evangelicals and militant partisans of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), a left-of-center party by Mexican standards. Interestingly enough, the politics of those who migrated to the United States flipped when they crossed the border. The Catholics became Liberal, while the Evangelicals became Conservatives.

Mom and dad saw in me the ability to learn difficult scientific concepts with ease, so they went out of their way to help me learn about science. Catechism school and Sunday school were secondary to the aims of my education. Although I learned much about Christianity and identify as Christian, religion did not become part of my identity. I don’t really place myself in a religious category, though, choosing instead to put myself in a category of scientist: I am an epidemiologist.

When my cousins were being schooled on the different dogmas of their respective branches of the Christian faith, I was getting a children’s encyclopedia. When they were told their normal body functions were amoral and sinful, I learned to understand the intricate functions of the human endocrine system and its control over much of what we do. And when they were getting pregnant as teenagers — because you’ll be shocked to find out that abstinence-only sex education doesn’t work — I was graduating high school at sixteen and enrolled in the medical technology program at the local university.

I write all this not to say that I’m better than them in any way. In many ways, I wish I were more like them. I wish I had started a family early, because my daughter will be in early college when I plan to retire. I wish I could have started working a job and saving for said retirement early, instead of getting myself in student loan debt. And I wish I could have stayed in my culture, because diving head-first into living and working in south-central Pennsylvania — as a Mexican born and raised — threw me for a loop.

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René F. Najera, MPH, DrPH

DrPH in Epidemiology. Associate/JHBSPH. Adjunct/GMU. Epidemiologist. Father. Husband. (He/Him/His/El)