The University of New Mexico’s diverse campus community is home to students and staff from all over the world, with 2018 graduate Paola Monarrez being one of them.

Monarrez originally came to New Mexico 24 years ago from Hidalgo del Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico as an undocumented immigrant.

“The most wonderful thing that I found about UNM was the fact that (the University) never discriminated against me for not being a citizen,” she said.

Starting at UNM in 2009, before the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was passed, Monarrez said she was very grateful that being undocumented was one of the last things that she had to worry about when pursuing her degree.

“I think that being an undocumented person made me feel as if I was incarcerated in my own city. You never feel the liberty of being able to say you can just go anywhere,” she said.

Shortly after coming to UNM, Monarrez found a welcoming community at El Centro de la Raza, UNM’s Latinx resource center, after being introduced to Armando Bustamante, she said.

“He offered (support), and I knew that I was with family,” Monarrez said.

El Centro de la Raza offers student support and resources such as community outreach programs, learning facilities and academic development.

As time went on, Monarrez said that her professors and other students made her feel more comfortable on campus, and she never felt like she didn’t belong.

Monarrez first came to UNM in hopes of pursuing an undergraduate degree in architecture, but did not get accepted as an undergrad, she said.

Due to this, Monarrez began to pursue a degree in liberal arts with a concentration in community and regional planning, as well as Chicano and Chicana Studies.

“I think that was supposed to happen,” Monarrez said. “I found poetry, due to me going into Chicano and Chicana studies, the class offered by Jessica Helen Lopez, helped me find something that I could be really good at.”

Monarrez said that her most memorable moment at UNM was getting to work on models in her architecture classes, and her experience doing work in her Borderland Poetics class.

Monarrez said that her plan after graduation is to take a year off to work on a poetry book and travel before applying to graduate school at the UNM School of Architecture and Planning.

Shayla Cunico is a music and culture reporter with the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at or on Twitter @ShaylaCunico.