Patricia Trujillo inspires UNM-Taos graduates: A call to create and illuminate communities

June 11, 2024

Patricia Trujillo

On May 10, 2024, Patricia Trujillo delivered a heartfelt commencement address to the University of New Mexico-Taos graduates, inspiring them with her reflections on community, family, and the journey ahead. Trujillo, who holds a Ph.D. in U.S. Latina/o Literatures from the University of Texas at San Antonio, an M.A. in English from the University of Nebraska, and a B.A. in English with a Supplementary Major in Law & Society from New Mexico State University, brought a rich tapestry of personal and cultural insights to the ceremony.

Trujillo began by expressing her gratitude to the graduates and their families, acknowledging the collective effort it took for them to reach this milestone. She emphasized the deep-rooted cultural values of Northern New Mexico, where community and family bonds are paramount. "Where are you from and who is your family? We are a relationships community," she stated, highlighting the importance of understanding one's heritage and connections.

Patricia Trujillo

Drawing from her own experiences, Trujillo shared memories of her family and upbringing in Taos, weaving a narrative that resonated with many in the audience. She recounted the warmth and inclusivity of her Gramma Pepa's adobe house, where family gatherings were a testament to their sense of belonging and mutual support. "As kids, we would pack into a long line of sleeping bags on the living room floor ... after keeping each other up too long, we’d fall asleep with the adults still laughing and talking in the front room," she reminisced, painting a vivid picture of familial love and unity.

A central theme of Trujillo's speech was the concept of "HOMEwork" — not the academic kind, but the work of being present and engaged in one's community. She drew a powerful analogy to the acequia culture of Northern New Mexico, where communal efforts are required to maintain water-sharing systems. "If one person or one family had to do it by themselves it would never get done, but in coming together there is a mutual benefit," she explained, urging graduates to view their degrees as tools for mutuality and reciprocity.

Trujillo encouraged the graduates to carry the light of their education into their communities, emphasizing that their achievements have broader impacts. "You are the light and we carry the light of those who came before us," she affirmed. She challenged them to create the communities they need, stating, "We create the communities we need. We are the community."

In closing, Trujillo quoted Robin Wall Kimmerer's "Braiding Sweetgrass," reminding the graduates of their potential to use their gifts and dreams for good. "Skywoman came to her with nothing but a handful of seeds and the slimmest of instructions: 'Use your gifts and dreams for good,'" she read, drawing a parallel between the creation story and the graduates' forthcoming journey of flourishing and making a home.

Patricia Trujillo's address was a profound reminder of the power of education, community, and cultural heritage. Her words encouraged the Class of 2024 to embrace their roles as leaders, healers, and creators equipped with the knowledge and spirit to illuminate their communities for generations to come. "Now it is time for you to do the real HOMEwork, the tarea, to set yourself to flourishing and making home," she concluded, leaving the graduates with a call to action that is both personal and universal.

Congratulations to the UNM-Taos Class of 2024! As you step into your futures, may you carry the light of your education and your heritage, and may you create communities that reflect the best of who you are.