October 17, 2019
Las Vegas, N.M. – Mari-Luci Jaramillo, the first U.S. Latina ambassador and a New Mexico Highlands University alumna and former regent, will talk about her new book Oct. 30 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at Margaret Kennedy Alumni Hall, 905 University Ave.
Jaramillo will also sign copies of her 2019 Barranca Press book “Sacred Seeds: A Girl, Her Abuelos, and the Heart of Northern New Mexico.” The Las Vegas, New Mexico native spent important formative time with her grandparents in the village of Las Manuelitas north of Las Vegas, which is the basis of the book.
Cecilia Navarrete, a former student, co-wrote “Sacred Seeds” with Jaramillo.
“In this book, sacred seeds refer to the community, faith, love and learning,” Jaramillo said. “My heritage as a Hispanic woman with roots in Northern New Mexico and Mexico defines me. Growing up as Hispanic, I lived the heritage that was passed to me through daily practice at home. My parents and grandparents reinforced my language, values, tradition and faith.”
“Sacred Seeds” is Jaramillo’s second book. The first was “Madame Ambassador: The Shoemaker’s Daughter,” written in 2002.
Jaramillo, 91, is known for her passion for education and diplomacy. She earned her master’s degree in education with a minor in Spanish magna cum laude from Highlands in 1959 and a bachelor’s degree in education in 1955. She completed a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction with a minor in Latin American studies from the University of New Mexico in 1970.
Jaramillo said Highlands had a major impact on her development and career.
“Highlands made me who I am. It taught me to study hard, to engage people, and to take life seriously. Highlands also made me aware of the ‘have and have nots,’ and that I could do something to help the ‘have nots.’” Jaramillo said.
From 1955–1965, Jaramillo taught English as a second language in Northern New Mexico and Albuquerque, saying she worked to improve the lives of children living in poverty.
Jaramillo served on the University of New Mexico College of Education faculty beginning in 1965 and ending in 1987. She was a leader in developing methodologies for bilingual education and cultural pluralism and held leadership positions such as dean for the College of Education. Jaramillo became a national leader in civil rights activism for education equity.
“First of all, the preservation of any language is important. Spanish is a world language that I inherited living in New Mexico. When I left Las Vegas, I took a gem of a language worth knowing with me.
“To learn Spanish well, I used it every moment I could. I spoke, wrote and read Spanish – my version of immersion. As the UNM scholar Sabin Ulibarri said, ‘if you lose your language you’ve lost your culture.’ I was proud of being a Chicana and spoke Spanish with whomever I could,” Jaramillo said.
President Jimmy Carter appointed Jaramillo as the U.S. Ambassador to Honduras in 1977, and she served in this position through 1980. After her ambassadorship, Jaramillo continued to serve as a State Department diplomat under President Carter and later as a Defense Department diplomat under President Bill Clinton.
“The most rewarding aspect of being an ambassador was promoting democracy and human rights across the world. You have influence, you have power, and you have the red telephone on your desk to call the president of the United States. So, one can choose that unbridled power to help others or to help yourself in your career. I chose to help others.”
Jaramillo said that public service was a very rewarding career, something she never dreamed of when she was young.
“Public service fit my personality, my talents, and education. I loved public service,” Jaramillo said.
Jaramillo served as vice chair of the Highlands Board of Regents from 2000 to 2005.
“The most important part of being a regent was learning the needs of students and the university from a new perspective,” Jaramillo said.
David Steinburg, in his “Albuquerque Journal” review of “Sacred Seeds,” wrote: “If you enjoyed Rudolfo Anaya’s time-tested novel, ‘Bless Me Ultima,’…. you’re bound to love Mari-Luci Jaramillo’s true-story collection, ‘Sacred Seeds.’”
Doyle Daves is a Highlands alumnus and history writer who has written about Jaramillo and reviewed “Sacred Seeds.”
“The career and achievements in education and government service of Mari-Luci Jaramillo are astounding, and are a testament to the belief in herself, pride in her heritage, a willingness to work hard, and a steely determination to succeed and contribute to improving the lives of others – particularly the poor and disadvantaged,” Doyles said. “It’s important to celebrate this Highlands alumna’s inspiring life and career.”
Proceeds from “Sacred Seeds” will benefit the Mari-Luci Jaramillo endowed scholarship at UNM.