Inspired by social justice activism in her south side Chicago Catholic high school, Maria Varela (b.1940) accepted an invitation in 1963 to join the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a civil rights organization working in the U.S. South. She helped develop a voter literacy program and by 1965 was the only female staff photographer for SNCC. In 1968 the experienced civil rights activist accepted an invitation from Reies Lopez Tijerina to join the Land Grant Movement in New Mexico. When members of the movement requested help in restoring ancestral lands and cultural practices, she supported them in establishing co-ops and non-for-profits to help improve their lives. In 1990, Varela received a MacArthur Fellowship for this work.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website