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Maria Gutierrez Spencer Papers

Identifier: MSS-567-BC

Scope and Content

The collection contains materials dating from 1951-1992. This material relates to Ms. Gutierrez' passion and life's work in the areas of bilingual/bicultural education. Box 1 includes biographical material as well as newspaper clippings, publications, reports, letters and other records documenting her work in New Mexico education, culture and politics. The remainder of Box 1 consists of background material and manuscripts relating to an unfinished book or books on Indo-Hispanic peoples and bilingual/bicultural education, entitled Stories of the Spanish Speaking People. Box 2 includes letters, newspaper articles, manuscripts, teaching materials, photographs, and other documents relating to education but particularly to bilingual/bicultural education and English as a second language.

Much of the material contained in this collection is in Spanish.


  • 1951-1992

Language of Materials

English Spanish

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publications or distribution.

Biographical Information

Maria Gutierrez Spencer was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico, December 17, 1919 to Jesus Borunda Gutierrez and Aurora Valdez Gutierrez. She was married to Lewis Spencer in July of 1955 and had two daughters, Maria Noni and Laura. At the age of five, Maria Gutierrez returned from her first day in school to announce that the nuns "did not know how to talk". They made noises that did not make sense. Maria spoke Spanish and the nuns English. For a week, a young nun punished Maria for not understanding English. This experience led to a lifetime mission to "save those students who had been discarded as non-learners." In Silver City, New Mexico, Ms. Spencer developed an English-as-a-second- language program called BOLD (Bicultural Orientation and Language Development) to teach English and thinking skills and help students develop a feeling of self worth. She made sure that Hispanics and Native American students knew their own heros and literature.

The only girl in her chemistry and physics classes at Las Cruces High, Maria graduated salutatorian. At the University of California at Berkeley, she took every course dealing with Latin America and Spain and was the first women teacher's assistant in two different departments-History and Political Science. She graduated from Berkeley with a B.A, and received a Masters degree from New Mexico State University with a major in Spanish and minor in Education.

Maria Gutierrez Spencer began her teaching career at the Riverside California Polytechnic High School. She taught in the Las Cruces and Silver City, New Mexico, public schools from 1948-1967, and was director of the Silver City and Deming, New Mexico, Bilingual/Bicultural Demonstration Centers from 1967-1978. These centers became, under her tutelage, federal demonstration and teacher training centers. The centers won the National Pacesetter Award, the National Replication Award from the U.S. Office of Education and the Western States Expo Award from the U.S. Commissioner of Education. Among her many personal awards are the Distinguished Women of New Mexico (New Mexico Woman's Caucus, 1975); New Mexico Bilingual Association Hall of Fame Award, 1978; Wonder Woman National Award, 1984; New Mexico Public Service Award, 1988 and the Governor's Award for Outstanding New Mexican Women, 1989.

Ms. Gutierrez was engaged in writing a book on Indo-Hispanic peoples and bilingual/bicultural education when she died. "She was a friend to Chicanos, to the poor, to women and children. And she was a formidable enemy to any who did not support those causes"(El Reportero, Silver City, New Mexico, 8-19-1992).


2 boxes (2 cu. ft.) + 1 oversize folder

Related Archival Material

Marie M. Hughes Papers Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico. Chicano Student Movement at Western New Mexico University Oral History Project Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico

Separated Material

Original films and archival masters are stored on B3.


Contact Information

  1. Center for Southwest Research
  2. Zimmerman Library
  3. University of New Mexico
  4. Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131-1466
  5. Phone: 505-277-6451
  6. Fax: 505-277-0530
  7. Email:
  8. URL:


Processing Information

Natural science curriculum material, in Spanish, added in June 2005. Materials to New Mexico State College Spanish Department investigation added September 2005; Films, reformatted to dvd were added, November 2010.
Finding Aid of the María Gutiérrez Spencer Papers, 1951-1992
Processed by D. Trujillo
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • June 28, 2004: PUBLIC "-//University of New Mexico::Center for Southwest Research//TEXT (US::NmU::MSS 567 BC::Maria Gutierrez Spencer Papers)//EN" "nmu1mss567bc.sgml" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131