Article by Juventino Meza Rodriguez
I met Hector R. Matascastillo, a MSW student at Augsburg, over the summer. We had no idea either of us existed. I had been told I should meet with him, so I emailed him and asked to go for coffee, a random offer I thought. He responded saying randomness had been part of his life for some time now, so sure, we would have coffee some time.
After our first meeting, I understood to some degree what he meant by the “randomness” comment. He then told me about his experiences with the military, genocide, and not long ago with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD), the police, and the judicial system.
I nominated Hector for the “25 on the Rise Award” this summer. He is one of the recipients and will be honored at a ceremony on Nov. 12.
The “25 on the Rise Award” is given by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to Latina/o leaders under 40 years of age in Minnesota. The day I met Hector I knew he was a great candidate for the award, not only because he has a long record in the military and serving as a ranger as well, but also for his work in advocating for veterans in the judicial system.
This Spring I was interning in the Office of Representative Carlos Mariani where I saw the importance of those affected by a certain policy or the lack thereof, and the work Hector was doing was certainly crucial. Moreover, Hector was the only Latino I knew involved in changing the lives of veterans in Minnesota.
In response to receiving the award, Hector writes:
When I heard about the nomination I thought that this was an honor in itself and was appreciative that I would be considered so. I was humbled as well simply because I have met and encountered so many impressive Latinos that I immediately thought I honestly wasn’t worthy to be amongst them or considered to have done more than them.
I have always believed I have been placed on the earth to serve the oppressed, to fight for a level playing ground and when necessary, to overcome whatever the enemy might be. In some ways this is why I joined the military. At that young age, there was more than one reason. As I grew older, it became more about living a life as much like the apostle Paul as possible—go where He commands me to go and do the work at hand when I get there. His work is found in the beatitudes. It’s about lowering yourself and becoming more and more humble in service. I always thought I’d be rewarded more as Hebrews 6:10 said, and I wanted it to be that way. I still do.
This award is an expression that the things that have been accomplished through me so far are considered worthy of being repeated by my fellow Latinos. It’s the action that is being rewarded—not the accomplishment. It’s the willingness to do something and not the potential for reward that is being honored. It’s the choice between serving and being served.
Today Hector is in his second year in the MSW program at Augsburg and has an internship at La Familia Guidance Center in St. Paul as a clinical therapist working with the Latina/o jóvenes. About his leadership and work, Hector says, “It is my calling to live in servitude and to do so with honor knowing who I represent in the end.”
He deserves to also be recognized for his work and leadership by Latinos for his work of all veterans and the Latina/o community. Also, he is a Rapid Response specialist, and he is involved with the Dislocated Worker Program and DEED for the state of Minnesota. Hector and his partner Trista live in St. Paul with their children.