María was born and raised in Chicago to a Mexican immigrant father and an Irish-American mother. Following her graduation with a degree in Secondary Education from Alverno College in 1961, she traveled to Alabama to participate in the actions of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in support of African Americans’ voting rights. She has remained active in northern New Mexico rural communities since her arrival in the state in 1967. In the 1980s, she helped to create an organization called Ganados del Valle (Livestock Growers of the Valley). In the early 1990s her community organizing efforts won her a MacArthur Grant.
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