Mercedez Hernandez and Cristal Aldrete, both 26, met four years ago at a medical research conference during their last semester of college. Hernandez was presenting her research, and had invited Aldrete to attend her presentation. Although Aldrete couldn’t make the presentation, at the dinner afterward she marched up to Hernandez and said she was glad to have met her. Taken aback, Aldrete got the hint and asked if they could keep in touch.
Both Texas gals, Hernandez was graduating from West Texas A&M in Canyon, while Aldrete was at the University of North Texas in Denton. One wanted to be a doctor, the other an artist.
If it wasn’t love at first sight, it was pretty close.
Then they spent the next year and a half apart. “It was hard,” says Hernandez.
“Long distance is tough,” echoes Aldrete, “but if you can make that work, you can get through anything.”
The month before they met, Hernandez had been accepted into the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB Health) in Galveston. It took a while, but the two were finally able to live together in Galveston. This past February, four years after they met, the pair married at the picturesque Galveston Island Palms outdoor events venue. The covered pavilion sits on a 29,000-square-foot of landscaped space on Avenue S.
“It was very pretty,” says Aldrete. “It was in the evening, with all the lights on outside.”
Married life on the Island for these two has been pretty sweet. They live in a duplex on the East End, just two blocks from the beach.
“Having a backyard was important for us,” says Hernandez. “We have two rescue dogs.” Peddy is a three-legged, 80-odd-pound German Shepherd mix, and Cookie is a tiny Yorkipoo. Kayaking and biking are the couple’s twin passions, and they recently bought a bike trailer for the dogs.
“Cookie rides in the trailer, and when Peddy gets tired of running alongside, because he just has three legs, he just gets in and rides with her,” says Hernandez.
The women also love the fresh seafood that the Island has to offer, in particular crawfish and blue crab. Aldrete introduced Hernandez to crawfish and says she’s now a big fan. Sadly, that’s something they are going to miss pretty soon.
While Hernandez was in medical school, Aldrete, an artist, worked until recently at the Galveston Arts Center as an administrative assistant, volunteer coordinator, and ceramics instructor. Although she loves the arts, she’s about to make a major career change.
“I’m going back to school to become a nurse,” she says.
“I think I was an influence,” admits her wife. “I would come home and tell her how wonderful the nurses were, always advocating for their patients. I told her I could see her doing that.”
Aldrete says it was during the recent pandemic that she made her decision to switch careers. “I really decided I wanted to help people. And maybe once I have my nursing degree, I might start a patient art program.”
As much as the couple loves Galveston, their island time is coming to an end when Hernandez graduates from medical school.
Aldrete was born in Palestine, Texas, and moved to Dallas at a young age, while Hernandez was born in Lubbock. “I’d like to move to San Antonio or Austin,” says Hernandez. Although the couple would like to stay in Texas, they know that the matching of medical students to residency programs at hospitals is computer-generated, so that may not happen. “Wherever I end up to do my residency, there will be a nursing program for Cristal.”
“I’ll miss going to the beach with the dogs and exploring everything,” admits Aldrete. “And how close everything is here. We have a five-minute commute to work, which is nice.”
“I love the beach and the seafood, I love the seafood,” Hernandez emphasizes, “but I definitely won’t miss the heat and humidity in the summer.”
Wherever these Island gals end up, it looks like their love is sure to survive.
This article appears in the July 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.