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Alumni Spotlight

October 20, 2017

Angelica Sánchez-Clark with her niece Sophia Sánchez.What are you doing now/where are you

"I have been working for the National Park Service (NPS) as a linguist-historian, then historian, for the past ten years, first for the Spanish Colonial Research Center (SCRC) and now for National Trails Intermountain Region (NTIR). Before that, I worked full-time as a UNM employee for the Spanish Colonial Research Center, as a researcher, translator, and managing editor of the scholarly journal, Colonial Latin American Historical Review. Dr. Joseph Sánchez established the SCRC as a partnership between the NPS and UNM in 1985, and when he retired from NPS in 2014, I joined NTIR as part of the history team. NTIR, based in Santa Fe, administers the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program and nine national historic trails, including three here in New Mexico: Santa Fe Trail, Old Spanish Trail, and El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro.

In April 2015, Aaron Mahr, superintendent of NTIR, established a new partnership with UNM, which allowed me to remain on campus as the full-time point of contact for NTIR’s internship program at UNM.  Over the last two years, we have offered students numerous internship and volunteer opportunities to work on interdisciplinary trail projects involving GIS, historic preservation, landscape architecture, and historical research. We also established a UNM trails advisory committee made up of faculty from several departments, including Dr. Anna Nogar from Spanish and Portuguese. Recently, Dr. Nogar and I collaborated on a Spanish-translation project proposal. As a result, NTIR funded a one-year student internship for a graduate student from Spanish and Portuguese to work on two major Spanish translation projects, one on El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro and the other on the Santa Fe Trail. NTIR is also working with Prof. Fred Gibbs, History Department, and the rest of the advisory committee to develop an interdisciplinary trails course that will be taught at UNM in fall 2018."

*Professional highlights post-graduation 

"Throughout my work with the SCRC and NTIR, I have had the privilege to work with scholars and students from around the world and here at UNM, which has been very rewarding and enlightening. In 2014, while still with SCRC, I worked on a research project involving the New Mexico Hispanic heritage of Route 66. We received funding from UNM’s Center for Regional Studies to hire four graduate students to conduct oral history interviews, research, and create a database of Route 66 sources. We were able to hire two graduate students from the Spanish and Portuguese Department, one from History, and one from American Studies. In summer 2015, NTIR hired a UNM undergraduate student through the National Park Service Latino Heritage Internship program to research the Hispanic legacy of Route 66 in the communities of Tucumcari, Santa Rosa, Grants, and Gallup. These research efforts resulted in a recently published anthology, edited by Dr. Joseph Sánchez and me, titled Historic Route 66: A New Mexican Crossroads: Essays on the Hispanic Heritage of Old Highway 66 (Rio Grande Books, 2017), which has been named as a finalist by New Mexico & Arizona Book Awards in the category of 2017 Best Anthology (winners will be announced in November).

Another professional highlight involves my work with El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro and El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trails. I worked with trail partners in New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana, as well as colleagues in Mexico, to plan a binational workshop, “Los Dos Caminos: Bridging Borders across the Centuries,” in Laredo in June 2016. We brought together about 40 participants from Mexico and the U.S. Most were familiar with one or the other camino real but not both. Everyone learned about and shared what the two trails in the U.S. and Mexico had in common and how they were different. As a result, we identified several initiatives that will keep us busy on both trails for years to come. For example, we are now working on a multiyear study of Oñate Crossing, an endangered El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro historic site on the border in El Paso, which is where Juan de Oñate’s 1598 settlement expedition crossed the Rio Grande into what is now El Paso."

*Research Interests/are you using your Spanish/Port degree

"In addition to my work here on campus, as part of the NTIR History team, I work with trail partner associations across the country and other groups to encourage historical research and writing about the trails and historic Route 66. We also do community outreach to underserved Hispanic and other traditional communities. We provide technical assistance, development expertise and management assistance to support trails research and plans, museum exhibits, waysides and brochures.

Sometimes people are surprised to learn about my “historian” title with the National Park Service, especially since I earned my master’s and doctorate in literary studies from UNM’s Spanish and Portuguese Department. I always explain that my literary studies have always included a study of history and culture.  In fact, reflecting my interdisciplinary interests, my dissertation focused on late colonial-19th century Mexican history and issues of identity (indigenous/mestizo) as exemplified by Ignacio Altamirano, a 19th-century Mexican writer, soldier, politician, and educator.

I use my knowledge of history, culture, peoples, and literary texts almost every day at work. And my bilingual skills play a critical role in my work on the two caminos reales that originated in Mexico during the Spanish colonial period: El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro and El Camino Real de los Tejas. The enabling legislation for both of these national historic trails authorizes cooperation among the United States and Mexican entities “for the purpose of exchanging trail information and research; fostering trail preservation and education programs; providing technical assistance, and working to establish an international historic trail with complementary preservation and education programs in each nation.” As a result, we work closely with our partners in Mexico, especially the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historica (INAH), on binational projects involving the two trails. Being able to communicate in Spanish with our colleagues in Mexico has facilitated our collaboration to protect, develop, and promote the two caminos reales."

*Memories with the Span/Port Department  

"My memories with the Spanish and Portuguese Department go back to the late 1980s early 1990s, when I decided to major in Spanish as an undergraduate. In fact, back then, it was still part of Modern and Classical Languages! I have very fond memories of professors who are no longer at the department but whose influence is still strongly felt, especially Dr. Erlinda Gonzales-Berry and Dr. Tey Diana Rebolledo. If it had not been for them, I don’t think I would have pursued my master’s, and later, my doctorate. My favorite memories as a master’s student involved my two years teaching in the Bilingual Track Program (now known as Spanish as a Heritage Language). As teaching assistants in this program, we were able to positively impact students who had grown up with Spanish spoken in the home or in their extended family but who perhaps needed that extra encouragement and support to speak or write it themselves. We also focused quite a bit on celebrating their cultural traditions and practices, especially those from New Mexico. Once per semester, we would organize presentations on local music, dance, and cuisine. It was a lot of fun and very inspiring."

She would also like to acknowledge Professors Dr. Miguel López, Dr. Kimberle López, Dr. Rebolledo, and Dr. Kathryn McKnight for encouraging and helping her finish her dissertation, which allowed her to graduate with a PhD in 2011. 

Pictured, Angelica Sánchez-Clark with her niece Sophia Sánchez.                                                                                                  (Picture courtesy of Angelica Sánchez-Clark)