Hispanic Heritage Month Q&A with Notre Dame softball player Mackenzie Vasquez

Author: Dennis Brown

Mackenzie Vasquez
Mackenzie Vasquez

Can you fill us in on your background?

I was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, as was the majority of my family, though we stay true to our Mexican origins. As is the case for most Hispanics in the U.S., I along with most of my family am Catholic. I come from a very tight-knit family that often expresses our love through food and often speaks at decibel levels significantly higher than what’s probably healthy for us.

In fifth grade, I moved from San Antonio, a city with a prevalent Hispanic culture, to a small town right outside of San Antonio with a drastically different demographic — a large part of the population being white and a small minority being Hispanic. This move while I was still in elementary school made the transition to Notre Dame much less of a culture shock than I likely would have experienced if I had lived in San Antonio up until I left for college.

 

What led you to consider and then enroll at Notre Dame?

A fun fact I like to share is that I was able to sing the Notre Dame fight song by the time I was 5 years old. My dad was a big Notre Dame fan, so Notre Dame has always been a part of me. But as I began the recruiting process for softball, I quickly realized that ND was my dream school for many reasons.

As I mentioned before, I was raised Catholic and my faith is still very important to me, so Notre Dame being a Catholic university was really appealing because I knew there would be plenty of opportunities to grow in my faith during my time here. Additionally, everything about the softball program at Notre Dame, from the coaching staff to the history of being a highly competitive program to playing in a power-five conference, was something I knew I wanted to be a part of and somewhere I could see myself fitting in really well. Additionally, I know softball is a means to an end, so the rigorous education that would set me up for the rest of my life was of course a large part of my desire to be a student here. I could go on and on about the traditions, the beauty of campus, etc., but all in all I fell in love with this place and made it my goal to find my way here.

 

What has your experience here been like — overall and as a Hispanic student?

My experience at Notre Dame has overall been amazing; it’s been a great mix of challenging and rewarding and has been full of moments I will forever cherish. When I think about my experience specifically as a Hispanic student, I am filled with gratitude because I feel that I have been welcomed into a community where I don’t feel pressure to compromise my identity and background. Quite the opposite, my experience has been one in which I’m encouraged to share my Hispanic culture with others. This has been highlighted by times such as when I taught some of my dorm friends how to make tortillas or when my family had a group of my friends over for enchiladas during a visit to South Bend.

One of my favorite parts about softball game days has, oddly enough, become pre-game stretching. Last year, we started a tradition where I share a “Spanish Word of the Day” with those around me every game day. It’s the best when I occasionally hear my teammates using these words outside of these “mini lessons,” or when I say something in Spanish and my teammates are now able to follow along with what I’m trying to express. During my time here at Notre Dame I have genuinely enjoyed sharing my culture with others and, in turn, learning about cultures I have had little exposure to.

 

What have been a couple of your most memorable moments at Notre Dame, on or off the field?

Some of my favorite moments at Notre Dame have been the authentic conversations I’ve had with classmates, friends or even strangers. Everyone at Notre Dame has so much to offer to the world and it’s so refreshing to hear people’s stories and hear the great things they’re doing throughout their time here. I have also loved celebrating both the big and little victories my teammates and I have experienced on and off the field. Going through the grind of athletics with 21 of my best friends and going into battle alongside them when we cross those foul lines has formed relationships where a victory for one of my teammates feels like a victory for all of us —and that just fills me up!

 

What’s your major, and, while you still have a couple of years to go, do you have any thoughts on what you’ll be doing after you graduate from Notre Dame?

I’m majoring in both economics and political science, and while I for the longest time have had my mind set on going to law school after undergrad, I’m currently considering career options more in line with my economics degree — possibly in the finance industry. I’m hoping that my time after Notre Dame takes me to new places so I can continue to learn about different cultures, traditions and ways of life in other parts of the world.