‘You have to be aligned,’ says alumni couple who discovered a lifetime of love

February 11, 2021

by Brooke Blanton Leith

When it comes to a lasting romance, it’s not just a matter of the heart, but also the head. That’s what Sonya (B.A. ’95) and Enrique Alemán Jr. (B.A. ’93) have learned over their 25-year marriage a love that began at St. Mary’s University in 1993.

Enrique and Sonya Alemán having fun in The Rattler office
After a long production night in Spring 1995, Sonya Mora and Enrique Alemán let loose in The Rattler office.

Today, Enrique and Sonya Alemán are accomplished professors at Trinity University and the University of Texas at San Antonio, respectively. They’ve lived and worked across the country as academics, researchers and educators. They’ve raised three young adults now embarking on their own ambitious careers.

Rewind to almost 30 years ago. Enrique Alemán was a senior Political Science major interviewing for an editor position at The Rattler, the University’s student newspaper. Leading the interview was the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, sophomore Sonya Mora.

You guessed it: he got the job.

“It was easy to work in that office,” Enrique Alemán said. “Sonya was very smart and, you know, easy to look at.”

Soon, the group of young journalists were spending a lot of time together, laying out the newspaper long into the night, Diet Cokes in hand.

“The staff became like a little family,” Sonya Alemán said.

According to Enrique Alemán, his future wife was a tough editor.

“She always tore my stuff apart,” he said. “But she did it in a really nice way.”

Before the semester was over, they went on their first date to see singer Emilio Navaira at San Antonio’s famed Tejano club, T-Town, which is now closed.

“We’ve been together ever since that night,” Sonya Alemán said.

“Professors like Dr. Poyo and Dr. Cotrell were very influential in my early consciousness raising about the kind of work I wanted to do.”

Enrique Alemán

After her future husband graduated from St. Mary’s, he moved to Washington D.C. to work for the CIA while she finished her degree. She graduated in May 1995 and in July of that year, they married in Assumption Chapel.

Enrique and Sonya Alemán embracing as a young couple in college
From left: Enrique Alemán and Sonya Mora (now Alemán)

The bridal party looked a little like a college reunion: two groomsmen and three bridesmaids were fellow alumni, including best man Tres Garcia (B.B.A. ’94) and maid of honor Xochitl Mora Garcia (B.A. ’95), the sister of the bride and the one who recommended the groom for the editor position.

Amid gold and blue wedding colors, the Rev. George Montague — St. Mary’s Professor Emeritus of Theology — officiated the marriage.

“It was such a beautiful space with the huge stained-glass windows,” Sonya Alemán said. “It just made sense for us to have it there.”

The Alemáns attribute their successful relationship, in part, to their early days at St. Mary’s.

“Professors like Dr. [Gerald] Poyo and Dr. [Charles] Cotrell were very influential in my early consciousness raising about the kind of work I wanted to do,” Enrique Alemán said. “I was able to have conversations in those classes that really challenged me.”

Enrique Alemán is now a Professor of Education at Trinity University, while Sonya Alemán teaches in the Department of Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Sexuality Studies at UTSA.

“Going off pure emotion isn’t enough for a long-term relationship.”

Sonya Alemán

Sonya Alemán felt nurtured by the predominantly Latino environment at St. Mary’s, which inspired her to teach at a Hispanic-Serving Institution. Learning about issues of racial inequity and the history of Mexican American communities was important to both Alemáns.

Enrique and Sonya Alemán celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary on the St. Mary's campus
The couple celebrated their 25th anniversary with a visit to St. Mary’s campus.

“That has been a benefit in our relationship that we have a shared interest in those conversations,” she said. “We get to do it professionally and talk to each other about our work.”

Now that their children are the age they were when they got married, the couple offers them advice for choosing a lasting partner.

“Going off pure emotion isn’t enough for a long-term relationship,” Sonya Alemán said. “You have to be aligned in other ways. It has to make sense and be good for you.”

Even if that means a little tough love. She still critiques most of her husband’s writing.

“She’s been my No. 1 editor ever since,” Enrique Alemán said. “She’s still my boss in a lot of ways.”

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