After immigrating from Spain, she found her voice, her self and a major


The American Dream is what brought Cristina Martinez and her nine siblings more than 4,000 miles from Valencia, Spain, to America in 2012.

They were in search of a better life, in a foreign land.

“I kept getting F’s in English class and I was mad at my family for bringing me to a place I could not speak or even express myself,” Martinez, a Detroit Mercy student, remarked as she laughed to herself in disbelief of how far she had come.

She was the epitome of the American Dream.

“My family is a missionary family for the Catholic church,” said Martinez, a practicing Catholic her whole life. “Throughout the metro Detroit area, my family and I go door to door telling people that Jesus loves them and saying, ‘Peace be with you.’ ”

But speaking America’s native language to strangers was not always easy for Martinez.

She recalled her first years in America as a haze of uncertainty and anger. She remembers only talking to those who spoke her first language, Spanish, during high school. 

She said that she won prom queen her senior year of high school, despite not having enough money to attend prom or and not having someone to help her communicate well.

But what was once Martinez’s biggest struggle is now her greatest passion.

“It took me a very long time to realize what I wanted to do, I even switched majors three times throughout college,” she said with a laugh. “But now I am going to pursue a communications degree because it is what I am most passionate about.”

Martinez’s story is not about a long trek across the Atlantic Ocean. It is about something much bigger than herself.

It is about coming to an unknown land not being able to speak to anyone.

It is about not knowing English well and still graduating high school on the upper east side of Chicago.

It is about getting into college although being unsure of her path.

It is about changing her major three times before realizing communication connects all humans on earth.

And it is about using that communication to spread the word of Jesus Christ, something she views as bigger than all of us.

As someone who is trying to connect with more people, Martinez decided to learn other languages as well.

She speaks English and Spanish fluently and is trying to learn Polish. 

“I think what inspires me,” she recounted, “are those who get outside of their comfort zone to try and understand others, as people did with me when I first came to America.”