Interviewee: Maria Rossoto
Interviewer: Suzanne Degnats
Date of Interview: November 28, 2012
Format: WAV file, transcript
Length of Interview: 1 hour, 43 minutes
Transcript: 47 pages
Maria Rossoto was born on October 22, 1962 in San Antonio, Texas. She is of Hispanic origin. Her parents were Catholic and lived in a Mexican neighborhood, but they did not practice Catholicism on a regular basis. When she was about 11, her family converted to Judaism, and a few years later her mother converted to Islam. Her parents divorced and she lived with her mother. Rossoto was an accomplished athlete and scholar but did not finish high school; she late went on to get her GED. She and her mother first moved to Arizona, and Rossoto later moved to Atlanta, GA. She received her undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice and Sociology from GSU, and later received her Master’s Degree in Public Heath from Capella University. Rossoto is married, and works as the Director of a community organization. She currently describes her religious affiliation as a Science of Mind Practitioner.
Rossoto describes a dysfunctional and difficult childhood and early adulthood. Her parents were Catholics who converted to Judaism. After a few years, her mother converted to Islam. Rossoto describes her grandmother as a witch who practiced herbalism, Santeria, and who “just knew things.” Rossoto did not ascribe to her parent’s religious paths. She was very confused by the bible stories that she heard, and did not understand if they were to be taken literally. She declined her Bat Mitzvah. She says that she worshipped the moon and was very enamored by nature. Although she was a very good student and gymnast, Rossoto started drinking and doing drugs in middle school and by high school she described herself as an alcoholic and a junkie. She was homeless for a time. She managed to get her GED and to get a series of jobs, and went to college at GSU at night, earning her degrees. She was able to get herself off of drugs and alcohol, and has remained sober. She attended some AA meetings, but did not agree with their methodology as she found it patriarchal and un-healthy, and believes that alcoholism is a brain disorder. Rossoto maintains a healthy lifestyle by running five miles a day and eating fresh, healthy foods. Her current job involves teaching healthy lifestyle skills and helping to maintain a community garden. Her current spirituality involves practicing affirmations and singing in the choir at the Science of Mind church. She believes that we are not separated from God and that God is accessible to all of us on a personal level. Rossoto ascribes her spiritual success to feeling gratitude. When asked about the religious climate at GSU, she said it was non-existent. She was a commuter, night school student and did not have a lot of outside contact with students or faculty beyond her classes. She saw herself as very different from all of the “straight” people at school, and claims that she could spot other people, such as one stripper in her class, that lived her same kind of lifestyle. As far as GSU influencing her spirituality, she did mention that she was very influenced by her class in Cultural Anthropology, which exposed her to the teachings of Joseph Campbell.
Catholicism, Mexican-American, Islam, Judaism, Santeria, Alcoholism, Junkie, Science of Mind, Affirmations, Pluralism, Co-Dependent, Gratitude