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Jorge Silva-Bañuelos is glad to be coming home.
On his father’s side, the new executive director of the Valles Caldera National Preserve has family roots in Santa Fe that go back several generations. His mother is first generation from Mexico. Although he grew up in Albuquerque, he left at 18 to attend the University of San Diego and pursue a career.
That does not mean Silva-Bañuelos has lost his ties to New Mexico.
“Anywhere you go outside New Mexico, you maintain that cultural connection to New Mexico and ultimately–it’s somewhat cliché, but the green chile is what binds us all together,” Silva-Bañuelos said, reminiscing about his family packing an extra piece of luggage with the state vegetable when they came to visit.
Silva-Bañuelos says he learned more about his home state after he left than he did growing up. Ironically, he did not know the Valles Caldera existed, despite recreating frequently in the Jemez Mountains.
Silva-Bañuelos spent the last 10 years in Washington, D.C., working for Sen., Jeff Bingaman and as a staff member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and more recently as a policy advisor for the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior.
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