Meet the Following the Manito Trail Team

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Levi Romero is the Co-Director and Founder of the Following the Manito Trail project. He was selected as the inaugural New Mexico Poet Laureate in 2020 and New Mexico Centennial Poet in 2012. His most recent book is the co-edited anthology, Querencia: Reflections on the New Mexico Homeland. His two collections of poetry are A Poetry of Remembrance: New and Rejected Works and In the Gathering of Silence. He is co-author of Sagrado: A Photopoetics Across the Chicano Homeland. Romero is a bilingual poet whose language is immersed in the regional manito dialect of northern New Mexico. He has co-directed two films on acequia culture; Bendición del agua, a short film based on a poem by Olivia Romo (Llano Quemado), and Going Home Homeless, a short documentary with Jessica Roybal (Llano Quemado). He is an Associate Professor in the Chicana and Chicano Studies department at the University of New Mexico. Romero is from the Embudo Valley of northern New Mexico.

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Vanessa Fonseca-Chávez is the Co-Director of the Following the Manito Trail project and joined the team in 2015. She was born in Grants, New Mexico. Her family roots are in Atarque - a small town established in the 1880s in northwestern New Mexico. In her childhood, Vanessa’s family moved around New Mexico quite a bit, living in Piños Altos in southern New Mexico, El Rancho in northern New Mexico, and Bluewater/Grants in northwestern New Mexico. Vanessa’s career has taken her along the Manito Trail - first to the University of Wyoming and then to Arizona State University. She is an Associate Professor of English and Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at ASU. She has served as the Co-Director of the Following the Manito Trail project since 2015.

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Trisha Venisa-Alicia Martinez, is a Research Scholar for the Following the Manito Trail project and joined the team in 2017. She is heir to the Arroyo Hondo Arriba Land Grant, was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming. She is a UNM-Taos and Southwest Hispanic Research Institute Post-Doctoral Fellow teaching Chicana and Chicano Studies and serving the UNM-Taos Dual Enrollment Program. Her northern New Mexico family roots extend from Sapello and Valdez, up the Manito Trail to Wyoming. In 2017, with great enthusiasm, Trisha joined the Following the Manito Trail Project team as a research scholar. She is furthering her research by also serving as the migrations manager for the Manito Community Memory Project. Trisha serves as a board member for the New Mexico Merced Preservation Trust, Arroyo Hondo Arriba Land Grant, Compostela Community and Family Cultural Institute and the Latino Education Task Force. Through teaching and community outreach, she is excited to help inspire the youth and create opportunities that serve in the best interest of our community.

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Dr. Patricia Perea is a Research Scholar for the Following the Manito Trail project and joined the team in 2020. She is an instructor in the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies at the University of New Mexico. She received her B.A. and M.A. in English Literature and her Ph.D. in American Studies. Born and raised in the Llano Estacado of eastern New Mexico and Northwest Texas, Patricia traces her roots to Dilia, New Mexico and Jiménez, Coahuila. She is the descendant of manitos who made their way east into the Texas cottonfields. She is a poet and a colchera. She joined the Following the Manito Project in 2020.

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Jesús Villa is a Graduate Research Scholar for the Following the Manito Trail project and joined the team in 2021. Originally from Las Cruces and La Villita, New Mexico, Jesús has called the Valley of the Sun his home since beginning his undergraduate career at Arizona State University in 2007. An anthropologist and religious studies scholar by training, he is currently pursuing his PhD in Transborder Studies at ASU. Jesús is a curandero, musician, professor, santero folk artist, storyteller, Universal Life Church minister, and above all, a proud manito nuevomejicano. He is deeply grateful to contribute to the important work of the Following the Manito Trail project collecting the overlooked histories of the Manito Diaspora.

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Vanessa Reynaga is a producer/videographer for the Following the Manito Trail project and joined the team as a Graduate Student Intern in 2022. She was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. She is passionate about digital storytelling and filmmaking. She developed her skills in photography and filmmaking at Pima Community College and eventually transferred to Arizona State University. She recently received her undergraduate degree in Graphic Information Technology at the Polytechnic campus. And currently is completing her Master’s degree, focusing on video and educational technology. She is a graduate intern for the Following the Manito Trail project. Vanessa has a background as a video director and producer for various short films and has received some recognition for her work in various film festivals and screenings. After she graduates, she plans to have a career that involves video storytelling and education.

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Trevonte “Tre” McClain is the webmaster for the Following the Manito Trail project and joined the team as a Graduate Student Intern in 2022. He recently completed his Master of Science degree concentrating in Internet and Web Development at Arizona State University. Tre became interested in educating underserved communities in STEM and the digital divide because of the lack of technical knowledge accessible to him growing up in low-income status. Trevonte operates Mighty Making, a nonprofit that assists low-socioeconomic individuals and families to become well-versed in technological knowledge. Trevonte has several years of professional experience in the Information Technology field. Trevonte assists the Arizona Supreme Court Foster Care Review Board as a board member and mentors individuals on the seriousness of domestic violence through the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence. Trevonte plans to continue his education with a doctorate to bridge Information Technology and Education.

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Troy Lovata is a Professor in the Honors College at the University of New Mexico with an faculty affiliation with the Southwest Hispanic Research Center. Professor Troy Lovata’s research and teaching focuses on how the past is depicted in the present and how people from prehistory to present mark the landscape and includes the books Inauthentic Archaeologies: Public Uses and Abuses of the Past; and Understanding Graffiti: Multidisciplinary Studies From Prehistory to Present.

Former Following the Manito Trail Team Members

Adam Herrera is the former producer for the Following the Manito Trail project. He is a former award-winning journalist and is the Head of Post Production for iFIT, a health fitness company in Utah. Herrera became involved in the Following the Manito Trail project while living in Wyoming and while working for the University of Wyoming. He has a passsion for cultural anthropology and a strong interest in projects that support cultural research and education. Herrera grew up in Grand Ledge, Michigan and has lived and worked in the Rocky Mountain West for the past eleven years. He holds two degrees in Professional Photography and Journalism and Digital Media.

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Robert Perea joined the Following the Manito Trail project as an Master's student in English at the University of Wyoming. He hails from Cheyenne, Wyoming and holds degrees in Religious Studies and English from the University of Wyoming. Perea's family roots are in the Questa and Costilla communities of northern New Mexico.

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Rae Monk joined the Following the Manito Trail team as a Master's student in the Narrative Studies program at Arizona State University. She worked with Dr. Fonseca-Chávez on an ASU Public History Grant to conduct oral history interviews with residents of Concho and St. Johns, Arizona. Rae is originally from Wyoming.

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