I met Theresa Gonzales at La Plazita Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The organization works with the most marginalized and vulnerable population of the South Valley, which is a neighborhood just south of Albuquerque. Theresa experienced an unfavorable upbringing due to poverty and addiction problems in her family. She also faced education barriers and spent time in the streets. She refers to that experience as “street knowledge”. Despite the odds, she is an avid learner and is constantly looking to improve not only her life but also the community of the South Valley, New Mexico.
The South Valley is also referred to as the Town of Atrisco or the Atrisco Land Grant by people in the area. Theresa is a land grant heir of 2 historic land grants – the Town of Atrisco and Cañón de Carnué.
Theresa Gonzales Co-Director at La Plazita Institute holds the organization’s Impact Model. The main categories are Personal Development, Family Wellness, Community Engagement, Institutional Engagement and Cultural Healing Services. In the background to the right, there is a photography exhibition highlighting La Plazita Institute’s programs. South Valley, New Mexico. May 30, 2014.
Theresa Gonzales Co-Director at La Plazita Institute poses in front of a mural that symbolizes oneness of spirit. The mural makes reference to Indigenous people, land, and water. The eagle represents strength, transformation and resiliency. Mural by Lonnie Anderson. South Valley, New Mexico. May 30, 2014.
The tattoo represents Theresa’s spiritual and physical journey. It represents her hardships in life, her transformations, her Indigenous roots, and desire to help others in need. The tattoo depicts a dragon, an Aztec serpent, a jaguar, an eagle among other symbols. Photographed at her office at La Plazita Institute on May 30, 2014. Mural in the background by Woody Bitsie.