Patricia Roybal Caballero isn’t the average graduate student looking to defend her thesis this spring. She’s also looking out for the constituents of District 13 on Albuquerque’s west side in the New Mexico House of Representatives.
Roybal Caballero finished all her coursework for a dual master’s in Community and Regional Planning in the UNM School of Architecture and Planning, and a master’s in Public Administration.
“I worked for many years as executive director of an inner city non-profit organization in El Paso. We explored social, cultural and identity issues as we looked at a neighborhood revitalization project. That is the focus of my case study,” she said.
Roybal Caballero has been accepted into the doctoral program in American Studies in the College of Arts & Sciences. She sees an opportunity to combine her many years of working for non-profits with her education and bring it into the classroom.
Roybal Caballero said that District 13 has become a “checkerboard” after the latest redistricting effort. It generally is the city’s southwest mesa, cuts across Central and Coors, and runs from Dennis Chavez toward Unser Blvd.
“The district is depressed and transitional. It has more foreclosures than any other area of the city. It has no shopping in the area or small business development or jobs. I am a strong advocate for small business development and see the economic growth in it,” she said. She added that she would like to see job creation in the area to keep workers closer to home and keep families involved in the community.
Roybal Caballero said that the area has a high bilingual and immigrant population. “We need to look out for their educational needs,” she said. “The schools need to be prepared for the language, economic, social and cultural challenges these students face.”
Roybal Caballero said that there are many new homes in the area, but few amenities. “Many properties were shorts sales – quick in, quick out. Just in the time between getting signatures to get on the ballot to returning to ask for neighborhood support during the primary, I saw tremendous turnover among residents,” she said.
The new District 13 representative is confident that her experience will be valuable in helping her address issues legislatively.
Professor Ted Jojola, Community and Regional Planning, said, “Patricia’s election as a State Representative is the natural outcome of her thesis topic on community engagement in the Community & Regional Planning program. For 30 years, beginning in the early 70’s, she was already involved in organizing through the Kalpulli en Accion (The Spirit of a United Community in Action), a community development program in the Chamizal neighborhood of El Paso, Texas. That, and her own cultural perspective as a Piro-Manso-Tiwa individual from the Indigenous cultural reaches of southern New Mexico makes her experience and perspectives invaluable in her new legislative role.”
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