UNM student Marisa C de Baca will be graduating this spring after spending time in Mexico, working within another culture, improving her Spanish and learning the art of jewelry making.
She will be graduating with a degree from the UNM Communication and Journalism Department with an emphasis in Intercultural Communication and a minor in Anthropology.
“I started my degree in 2006 after graduating from Albuquerque High School. I made it almost through my bachelor’s until I had about one semester left. I was getting my degree in Intercultural Studies and decided it was important for me to live within another culture before getting my degree in the intercultural field,” explained C de Baca.
It was one thing to learn about cultural studies through the intellectual design for her degree but another to have an enriching learning experience and to spend time living and applying the learning, teachings and working within another culture. C de Baca also had a desire with the intercultural background to get better at her Spanish.
“I had spent some time in Granada, Spain and had some visits to Canada and Mexico at that point in my life, but never truly lived within the culture, fully emerged,” said C de Baca.
She applied for and received a position as an au pair and front desk clerk at an eco-friendly resort in a little port town named Barra de Navidad, located on the west coast of the state of Jalisco. She decided to sign up for online classes and jet-set south to Mexico to submerge herself in the culture.
“I fell deeply in love with the community, the family, the job and just the overall energy of Mexico. I worked there for a little while and tried to do my classes online. Unfortunately, with the spotty internet connection, hurricane season, and the intensity of those upper-division courses it was difficult to continue my course load that semester,” explained C de Baca.
Meanwhile, she had started to learn to make jewelry from local artisans in the town and wanted to continue her journey and see more of the country. So, she decided to continue to make jewelry – and sell it.
“One day I received a red backpack from a dear friend of the family I was living and working with and decided to embark on a trip through Mexico,” said C de Baca.
She continued to learn how to make and sell jewelry along the way to afford the travels. She eventually ended up in Mexico City where she learned more about the art of metalsmithing. She traveled within and around Mexico City for some time.
“I saw some of the most beautiful places and met some fascinating individuals with remarkable stories along the way,” said C de Baca.
After a powerful experience on an excursion through the Desert in San Louis Potosi, she decided it was time to come back to the United States. She flew into L.A. and decided to set up a little spot near Venice Beach to sell her work. During a festival, she managed to sell much of her work that she had brought back from Mexico in under an hour. That’s when she decided she would register a business to continue selling her jewelry.
C de Baca has been creating jewelry as a metal and silversmith here in Albuquerque ever since. Her style is Southwestern with an urban New Mexican design. She has built up her business over the years and sold her work in Lilly Barrack and galleries around New Mexico.
“Michelle Lujan Grisham owns a few pieces of one of my collections, and it's been exciting to see her wearing them speaking lately on camera. I show my work in shows all over the U.S. and have worked and lived in Central America as well as South East Asia learning and selling my work. I have been able to provide for my little family by doing what I love to do,” said C de Baca.
She now has a young son. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she has had to adjust to having her shows and markets canceled and to having her son at home. She decided to come back and finish the last bit of her degree.
“Looking back this has been quite the detour loop to this degree, but I certainly received what I sought out to do during this detour. And now to take these classes that I was trying to finish in Mexico has been honestly... amazing. It has been wonderful to see exactly how these tools in some of these classes are certainly applicable to what I use on a day-to-day within my business and even day-to-day life and especially in the communication realm. I have sincerely enjoyed the conversations in the discussion modules with my classmates and seeing where the field is going,” explained C de Baca.
C de Baca does quite a bit of custom pieces revolving around a significant life event to which she is creating a commemoration for, and this allows for a closer communication around the piece and person’s story if they want to make a piece revolving around that. She wants to be able to go deeper with her clients and have a calling to work in the mental health field during this time as well.
She plans to open a mental health clinic alongside her studio and gallery. She also plans to start working on her master’s degree with NMHU's Masters in Clinical Social Work Program next fall.
Read more about C de Baca and see her work by checking out her Instagram and website: