In a twist on the old saying, the personal is regional in Andres Armijo's "Becoming a Part of My History: Through Images & Stories of My Ancestors." Through a photographic genealogy, Armijo's first book reveals the history of Nuevomexicano family life and provides a blueprint for others on a quest for ancestral revelation.
Armijo is director of Living & Learning Communities, one of the Freshman Academic Choices in University College. Students in LLCs live and take classes with peers who share major, minor or career interests.
In a January 2007 UNM Today interview, Armijo said, "Our program helps with the transition to college and retention as well as career and major exploration. It's very interdepartmental, intercollegiate, and gives students a hands-on, engaging experience."
Forging personal connections is as central to "Becoming a Part of My History" as it is to LLCs. "What I talk about a lot in this project is the importance of asking ourselves questions, and more importantly asking other people questions about how they grew up or how they knew their relatives," he said.
Watch a video interview with Armijo:
He said New Mexico has "a rich documented history," including records of births, deaths, communions, marriages and censuses taken by Spain, Mexico and the United States. He delved into libraries and archives in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Spain and Mexico to do research for the book, but a good story takes more than facts and data.
The quest for personal history began early for Armijo. "My earliest memories of doing research are when I was small asking my mom about these old photos that she had, or about the way she grew up. And even in middle school I started doing my first family trees for class projects, and that carried on throughout my high school years."
Some were surprised by his interest. "They would get a kick out of it because I don't think any of my peers, certainly at the time, were interested in things of this nature," he said.
Armijo reads from the prologue of "Becoming a Part of My History"
Armijo's archival research also turned up images that fascinated him. The nonverbal communication of photographs and stories in "Becoming a Part of My History" complement and reinforce one another.
"Mannerisms have always interested me – the way people pose, the way people represent themselves," he said. In ancestral photos, "I look for characteristics or facets that they may have had that I see in the photographs, and I compare them to my own."
Armijo has a Master of Arts in Southwest Hispanic studies from UNM. He taught Spanish at main and UNM-Valencia campuses, worked in Student Affairs and was a senior academic advisor in University College before becoming LLC director.