Jaime Geronimo Vela

Jaime Vela 300pxHow did you become a preservationist?

I have always been a preservationist, especially when it relates to maintaining one’s culture. I am an Apache and my long held desire has been to preserve the Native American culture and its history. My interest in historic preservation as a profession blossomed while attending graduate school at New Mexico State University (NMSU). More specifically, it was my Cultural Resource Management classes that sparked my interest. On one project, I was part of a team that worked on a nomination to list the Apollo 11 artifacts on the New Mexico State Register of Cultural Properties. One of my professors served as team leader, and during this time, I learned of his involvement with a project to preserve the Phillips Chapel in Las Cruces, N. Mex. I learned about the many elements involved with preserving historic places and the links between historic preservation and cultures maintaining their identity. I have since finished my Master of Arts in Anthropology at NMSU and have begun my Ph.D. in Economic Development. I will conduct much of my research on the Navajo reservation near Farmington, N. Mex.

What is the value of diversifying the preservation movement?

It is extremely valuable to diversify the preservation movement. A significant part of history is compiling the facts, and oftentimes it is the descendants and those who’ve experienced a particular culture who can best tell its history. Individuals who know their own history know the importance of preserving it. It is important that these individuals feel that they have a platform to tell their preservation story and continue the legacy.

How did you become familiar with the National Trust?

Upon learning about my interest in historic preservation and Native American culture, two of my graduate school professors told me about the National Trust. I did my research and learned about the many opportunities that the National Trust has to offer anyone with an interest in historic preservation. I attended the 2010 National Preservation Conference in Austin, Tex., and learned a lot about the preservation work happening throughout the United States.

What did you think of your experience as a Diversity Scholar?

My experience as a Diversity Scholar was priceless. I am so thankful that I was chosen as a Diversity Scholar and attended the National Preservation Conference. I made so many contacts and learned so much about the resources available for historic preservation. The Diversity Scholarship Program’s staff and other preservation leaders at the conference were engaged and helped us first-time conference attendees make contacts that we will need in the future. I am thankful to all of them for taking me under their wing and involving me in all the important meetings about historic preservation.

Final thoughts?

I will always remember my experience as a Diversity Scholar, and I totally recommend that everyone apply to be a Diversity Scholar. The contacts and the friends that I established will always be an important factor in my future. The National Trust is doing great things in historic preservation and it understands the importance of our cultures’ history. I’m thankful to all of those individuals who have given me guidance and kept me involved in the Diversity Scholar program. I will always remember you and hope to some day give back to the program immensely. Again, thank you.