When Dinora Harris and Audrey Lozano first met at the Michelson Museum of Art in 2017, they knew immediately that they were going to be good friends.
The two women have a lot in common: from both being Hispanic immigrants, women from the big city who moved to a small town, volunteering for the same organizations, and even majoring in the same thing in college (com¡munication sciences). However, both Lozano and Harris agreed that while they similarities are what brought them together, it is through their differences that they have found a deeper friendship and shared passion with one another.
Lozano grew up in Monterrey, Mexico, near the border city of Laredo. She went to school and received a degree in communication sciences, with an emphasis in marketing, with a plan to learn English and become bilingual.
She met her husband, Eduardo Lozano, when still living in Mexico and the pair married 10 years ago. Together, they moved to Marshall after Eduardo received a number of teaching opportunities in the states as a bilingual teacher, and the couple selected Marshall as their new home.
“We were at a job fair in Houston when he told me that he had multiple job offers in all of these different places,” she said, “I started looking them up and I saw Marshall, and it looked for perfect. I remember telling him how beautiful I thought it was.”
So Lozano and her husband took a giant leap of faith, moving out of the country they grew up in to move to Marshall, with Eduardo planning to teach at William B. Travis Elementary School, where he still works today.
Harris’s story also involved a leap of faith, though one with different motivations. In 2005, Harris was working two jobs in her home town of Guatemala City, Guatemala, utilizing her degree as a sports broadcaster, as well as in communications with the Department of Agriculture.
It was through her job at the state’s Department of Agriculture, at an irrigation trade show, where she met her now husband Rush Harris, a Marshall native who was working in the Peace Corp at the time in Guatemala.
“With his work and mine, we would meet up every weekend, and after time we got closer,” she said.
After dating for a while, Harris visited Rush here in Marshall, meeting his family for the first time. He then proposed to her.
“I said yes, and I never went back. I left all of my things, everything except for what I had with me.” She said, “We had to fly my family in, and that was something I had not even thought about because it was so spontaneous, we were just so in love.”
Both women remember the uncertain feeling that they experienced when first moving to the United States, with Harris remembering the particular difficulties surrounding knowing little English when she first arrived.
“When I first moved here, my English wasn’t very good, but also I went from working two jobs to working no job at all, so I decided that my focus was going to be to learn English,” Harris said.
That’s when she went to the Marshall-Harrison County Literacy Council, where she met her tutor Joyce Hammers, the organization’s former director, who worked with her though the whole process until Harris said she was fluent in the language.
“I remember she (Hammers) said to me, ‘I want you to learn English, but I don’t want you to lose your accent,’ which really meant so much to me because she helped me so much, but she didn’t want to change who I was,” she said.
Life eventually brought Harris and Lozano to the Michelson Museum of Art, where they were able to work and grow their shared passion for the arts. Both women started with the organization as volunteers, with Harris taking a job with the museum in April 2021.
Working together with Museum Director Susan Spears, Lozano said that she was able to create the annual Day of the Dead celebration, one of the many annual cultural events the Michelson hosts.
“We got the idea, and I remember I was very nervous, but I brought it to Susan and she just loved it,” Lozano remembered, “That was back in 2018, and I remember thinking that it would maybe be perceived as weird or be uninteresting to the community, but we got a great turn out.”
The event, Lozano said, is a way for her to share her culture with the Marshall community, showcasing not only the beauty and art associated with the creation of the day of the dead altars, but also taking the time to educate the community about the holiday and its history.
In fact, education through art is one of both women’s passions, with Harris and Lozano both expressing their drive to share their culture and history with everyone they meet.
“We having a saying in Mexico that, where two people are eating three can also eat, and that’s how I feel about our culture, I want everyone to share in it, whether it’s by throwing in a Spanish word into their daily lives, through cooking or through art,” Lozano said.
Since moving to the United States, Harris said she has found herself embracing the color and styles of her culture more, finding her self-expression as another way to share the beauty of the culture within the community here in Marshall.
“I think the old way of thinking was that when you come to the United States, you tone down,” Lozano said, “You turn down your colors, and you speak in English and you don’t play Latin music. But with the younger generations were starting to say, wait, why tone it down? It’s better, it’s more fulfilling, to be exactly who I am.”
Together, Harris and Lozano are working at the Michelson Museum of Art, to create a number of programs, classes and activities that continue to showcase their Hispanic culture, especially during this Hispanic Heritage Month.
“It’s really so wonderful, and what I think we hope is to continue to have our American friends embrace us, and our culture,” Harris said. “Loving us is loving being Hispanic.”