Join MACRI for a virtual conversation with legendary Mexican American civil rights photographer Maria Varela.
Introduced to organizing through the Catholic social justice movement, in 1962, Varela was recruited by Casey Hayden to work in the SNCC office, but when she arrived the following summer, Frank Smith and Bernard Lafayette sent her to Selma where a voter literacy project was needed. At SNCC, Varela honed her photography skills, documenting the movement and creating books and filmstrips to help spread the work of the movement. In 1967, Julian Bond introduced Varela to Southwest Land Grant Leader Reies Lopez Tijerina who recruited her to work with him in New Mexico. There, she worked with Mexicano and Native livestock growers and artisans from 1968-1997 to preserve land, water, and culture while increasing family income. In 1990 she was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award for her organizing work. From 1990-2013 she was a visiting professor at the University of New Mexico and Colorado College in Colorado Springs. Today she works with community groups working on environmental justice issues and continues to speak, write, and teach about the lessons of the 1960’s civil rights movement. Her photographs have been exhibited across the country.