Tori Martinez, Executive Director for the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area graduated from Arizona State University with a Master’s degree in Sociology, on December 12, 2017.

Tori decided to pursue her Master’s degree because she wanted more training, to better serve and give back to her community. Arizona State University’s Sociology degree offered a focus on family and community dynamics. It had a flexible schedule, and an accelerated program, that allowed Tori to continue working and finish her degree in a shorter amount of time.

Tori’s roots stem from the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area and set the groundwork for her passion in preserving land, culture, history, language and culture. She grew up on a farm in Capulin where her family raised sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys, goats and horses, and grew their own alfalfa for feed. “I have fond memories of irrigating the field with my father and cousins.” She graduated from Centauri High School and spent summers in San Luis with her grandparents. “I am proud that my uncles helped build the trail up the mountain for the Stations of the Cross Shrine. I am also proud that my great-grandfather was a Hermano Mayor for the Penitente brotherhood.”

Prior to her Master’s program, Tori was a single mom with three daughters when she decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree at Adams State University in Social Sciences with a minor in Women’s Studies. She says her motivation for pursuing a bachelor’s degree as a non-traditional student was to inspire her daughters. “I want them to see that it’s never too late to chase after your dreams!”

During her undergrad at Adams State, Tori had an internship with the National Science Foundation in Washington D.C. She also had two teaching assistant positions, one in sociology and one is psychology. “At that time I was thinking of going into teaching in higher education and I wanted to get some actual experience in order to help me make up my mind. Ultimately I decided that work outside of academia was the path for me.”

All of the experience and education at Adams State University provided a great foundation for a smooth transition into her Master’s Degree at Arizona State University. “The program was intense, but I am thankful for the support and understanding of my family and friends who were essential in encouraging me to complete the program. I am also grateful for the support I received from the Board of Directors at the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area.”

The President of the Board of Directors for the SdCNHA, Nick Saez feels that Tori’s work is moving the organization in the right direction. “I know that I speak for the entirety of the Board of Directors when I say that we are delighted by the work that Tori has done over the past year. The completion of her graduate degree in sociology has added to an already impressive resume. The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area and the San Luis Valley are fortunate to have such a devoted expert leading the cause to preserve the region’s rich cultural legacy through oral history and other forms of public testimony.”

That oral history project is called Voices of the Valley. It explores and documents the relationship between culture and natural resources in the San Luis Valley, placing emphasis on the particular meanings that inhabitants associate with the communities they live in. This ongoing project is being accomplished through video interviews with lifelong members of the Heritage Area’s communities. Interviews are posting weekly to the free and publically accessible Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area’s YouTube channel: SangreNHA. Dr. Waddell, a partner on this project, and Tori have also written a book chapter on the USDA discrimination in the San Luis Valley for textbook use, to be published in 2018.

Tori has been working diligently to bring education about the SdCNHA to local school districts and educators through a new place-based learning curricula. Place-based learning allows students to engage in research within the place they live, empowers students to take ownership of local stories, fosters passion about their own educational journey, and creates a sense of pride within their own communities. Teacher workshops will take place for local educators in April of 2018 and again in the fall to share the heritage area’s collection of research, resources and lesson plans. A field trip grant program is also being implemented this year by the SdCNHA. Eligible applicants are all K-12 schools located in Alamosa, Costilla and Conejos Counties. This grant encourages field trips which foster the study of land and water, local history, local heritage, local culture; archeology; understanding of place, and the natural and human resources we use and conserve. For more information on Oral History,Teacher Workshops and Field Trip Grants please contact the SdCNHA or visit