Tucson, Arizona – Judge Petra Jimenez Maes, well-known for her efforts to promote diversity, is the first Hispanic woman to preside on the New Mexico Supreme Court.
The 64-year-old Jimenez Maes, originally from Albuquerque, was one of the first women to graduate from the University of New Mexico Law School and during her lengthy career she has had to overcome various obstacles, among them assorted stereotypes.
"I think that one of the main obstacles that I've had to overcome has been 'sexism,' being a woman trying to stand out in an area dominated by men," said the judge in a telephone interview with Efe from Santa Fe.
She noted that when she first expressed her interest in being a lawyer they told her that she was very "small" in size to be one. However, that type of remark pushed her to continue her studies.
"While I was moving forward in my career I noticed all the stereotypes there are about attorneys, above all that they are tall, white and male," said Jimenez Maes, who being "short, brown and a woman" does not fit the specified parameters.
She was 10 years old when for the first time she expressed her wish to be a lawyer, since she saw the important role that they can have in helping people and was fascinated with the entire process of moving a case through the court system.
"In my family there was not a single attorney, not even anyone who had graduated from college. All that I learned about lawyers was from seeing television programs," said the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants.
Upon finishing high school, Jimenez Maes had to work an entire year to earn enough money to go to college.
Once she entered the university, she studied and worked at the same time until she received a full scholarship from the law school.
Jimenez Maes was a judge at the Sante Fe Court for 17 years. In 1998, she was elected for the first time to the New Mexico Supreme Court, becoming the first Hispanic woman to occupy such a position.
She also became the first Hispanic woman to preside over the highest state court during the years 2003-2005.
In 2012, she was elected for the second time to head the state Supreme Court, a term that will end in 2014.
"My main message for young Latino women is to continue in school. I'm sure that all of them have dreams they want to fulfill and to be able to achieve them the main thing is for them to finish their studies," Jimenez Maes said.