Family life

Theresa Gonzales Co-Director at La Plazita Institute in Albuquerque NM

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 in Albuquerque NM

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 in Albuquerque NM.

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.

Theresa Gonzales Co-Director at La Plazita Institute in Albuquerque NM.

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.

Ali Morales and his family in The South Valley in New Mexico

Ali Morales is 25 year old enthusiastic law student from Ciudad Cuauhtémoc, Chihuahua. He is a first generation Mexican American and is setting up roots in the United States. His wife and young daughter Aliana were born in the United States.

Ali’s plan after finishing law school is to practice law in the areas of Criminal law, immigration and worker’s compensation. He currently works at a law firm called Abogado Elias Law that serves Mexican Americans and Hispanics in the South Valley, New Mexico. The South Valley is located just south of Albuquerque.

I asked him what the term Mexican American means and he replied that he thinks of someone who immigrated to the United States from Mexico. He considers his young daughter, Aliana, also to be Mexican American because she has an American mother and a Mexican father. “She is a Mexican American, she represents both cultures” he said.

I also met Ali’s parents and sisters at their home in the South Valley. We drove south of Albuquerque for like 20 minutes and we got to a neighborhood outside of the city. When we got there we found Ali’s dad, Jesus Morales, working on a project to restore a mobile home. We toured the backyard and gathered the family for some photos.

I would like to thank Ali for inviting me to his parent’s house to get a glimpse of Mexican American life in the South Valley.

Ali Morales and family in Albuquerque's South Valley

Ali Morales with his wife Mercedes and their daughter Aliana. Photographed on May 28, 2014 behind Abogado Elias Law in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Ali Morales in his small office at Abogado Elias Law Albuquerque New Mexico.

Ali Morales in his small office at Abogado Elias Law in Albuquerque, New Mexico. May 28, 2014.

Ali's father Jesus Morales at his home's backyard

Ali’s father Jesus Morales at his home’s backyard in Albuquerque’s South Valley. May 28, 2014. Jesus Morales has a home construction and remodeling business.

Ali Morales with his family in Albuquerque's South Valley.

Ali Morales with his family in Albuquerque’s South Valley. From left to right: Mercedes, Ali, Jesus (holding the dog’s leash), baby Aliana, Manuela, Jessica and Diana Morales. May 28, 2014. South Valley, New Mexico.

Ali Morales with his family in Albuquerque's South Valley.

Ali Morales and his family inside their home in New Mexico’s South Valley. From left to right: Jessica, Diana, (sitting down), Jesus, baby Aliana, Manuela, Mercedes, and Ali Morales. May 28, 2014.

Lupe and Rosa Navarro celebrating on Easter Sunday in San Juan, Texas

On Easter Sunday I visited the San Juan Texas Municipal park and met Guadalupe Navarro and his wife Rosa. Guadalupe is a 66 year old Vietnam Veteran who goes by the name Lupe for short. He is originally from Cotulla, Texas, which is about 90 miles Southwest of San Antonio.

I asked him what the term Mexican American means to him. He replied that the term describes his identity. He said that he is neither Mexican nor hispanic, he is Mexican American, born in the United States with Mexican descent. He has not used the terms Latino or hispanic when filling out job applications. Instead, he has always selected the option “Other” and filled out the blank with “Mexican American.”

“For me the word Latino means nothing, the word Hispanic means nothing” he mentioned “I know I made a lot of people angry, that was me.”

Lupe Navarro in San Juan Texas

Lupe Navarro and his wife Rosa celebrating on Easter Sunday with family. San Juan, Texas. Photo from April 20, 2014.