Contact: Wendel Sloan at 505.562.2253
Reporter: Roma Vivas
PORTALES—Dr. Romelia Hurtado de Vivas, or "Romy" as she likes to be called, is an assistant professor of bilingual education at Eastern New Mexico University. From Venezuela, she is one of several professors that add a Latin flavor to the diversity of Eastern.
Hurtado, who has lived in Portales for four years, grew up in an oil-producing town called "El Tigre" in a family of seven children. She and her twin sister were the fifth and sixth born.
Hurtado describes her childhood as being happy, "with all the struggles that a big family can have, but with the love and discipline of my parents and siblings, everything was surpassed.
"My father worked as a truck driver for a petroleum company and was very strict; He instilled in us the principles of education."
While growing up, Hurtado's family did not have many books at home, but her mother, a housewife, read the Bible to the family, as well as Reader's Digest, which her siblings and she treasured.
Hurtado noted proudly that every member in her family has at least a college degree. In Venezuela, public universities are free for students who pass the entrance exams.
Hurtado attended universities in the United States, even though all of her siblings went to a university in Venezuela. After graduating from high school, Hurtado was granted scholarships in the United States.
"It was very hard at the beginning to live in a place where I did not know the language or culture, but little by little the U.S. became part of my life," Hurtado said.
She first went to Tacoma Community College in Washington and then to the University of Washington in Seattle. Later, she went to Columbia University Teachers College and finished her doctoral studies at the University of New Mexico.
Even after 26 years, Hurtado considers herself passionate about teaching. Her education philosophy revolves around Paulo Freire.
"Ever since I studied Freire, I have become more reflective about not only my teaching, but also about my role as a citizen of the world; I want my students to become world citizens without losing their roots; I want them to develop a healthy-self concept and social sensitivity to the needs of others," Hurtado said.
Dr. Hurtado, whose daughter, Roma Vivas, is a graduate communication major at ENMU, believes that education is complex and full of contradictions, and that the role of teachers should be to teach all points of view.
"Freire claims that ‘the teaching act is an act of love and humbleness, teaching has to be imparted from the heart too.' He has also taught me that my role is not only as a ‘teacher-learner' but also as a ‘learner-teacher,'" Hurtado said.