This year the  South West Organizing Project is 40 years old!  To commemorate the occasion we will bring you a new podcast featuring SWOP supporters, employees and long-time swopistas. We'll bring you a new episode each month.

Episode Five: Tomasita Espinosa and Sandra Montes

Longtime SWOPistas Tomasita Espinoza and Sandra Montes reflect on their favorite memories of SWOP. Tomasita disputes her mother's claim that she helped "steal" someone from the hospital, instead says her mother liberated them from ICE agents. They also share some favorite places SWOP has taken them, SWOP's connection to Pajarito Mesa and SWOP's superpower; being fearless. 

Las veteranas de SWOP, Tomasita Espinosa y Sandra Montes reflexionan sobre sus recuerdos favoritos de SWOP. Tomasita niega la afirmación de su madre de que ella ayudó a "robar" a alguien del hospital, en cambio dice que su madre los liberó de los agentes de ICE. También se comparten algunos lugares favoritos que SWOP las ha llevado, la conexión de SWOP con Pajarito Mesa y la superpotencia de SWOP: ser valiente.

About the hosts: 

Sandra Montes, is originally from Juarez, Mexico but has been a long time resident of Albuquerque, NM. Sandra has 4 children, 7 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren. Sandra lives in the Pajarito Mesa colonia located in Albuquerque's southwest mesa. Sandra started organizing in 1999 through the SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP). Sandra organized in her community for basic services and infrastructure for over 10 years. She supervised the 2010 United States Bernalillo County Census Team and participated in many other grassroots organizing activities along the way. Sandra was the founder of the Pajarito Mesa Mutual Domestic Water Consumers Association where she served as Board president for many years. She also served on other non-profit organization boards such as the New Mexico Legal Aid and the UNM Literacy Center.


Tomasita Espinoza was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is a mother of 4, Ruben, Hernan, Zantiago, and Malaya. She is a lifelong Burqueña. Tomasita joined SWOP’s staff in 2000 as an environmental justice organizer. She is a community expert on the effects of industrial pollution in the South Valley. She worked a number of years as a Promotora with the Rio Grande Community Development Corporation, and represented SWOP on the New Mexico Environmental Justice Planning Committee, helping that committee plan a series of EJ Listening Sessions around the state in 2004. In her time at SWOP, Tomasita ran Tax Fairness campaigns, civic engagement campaigns and border justice campaigns. She served many rolls at SWOP from community organizer, office administrator and chief financial officer. 

This episode is sponsored by: 


Episode Four: Rodrigo Rodriguez and Travis McKenzie

Whose streets? Our streets! But also, Rodrigo and Travis agree that SWOP needs more specific protest chants in the fourth installment of the 40th Anniversary Podcast. They recorded their conversation months before the COVID-19 pandemic, but their conversations about staying rooted in community is more relevant than ever…and also entertaining. Stay safe everyone and enjoy the episode. 

About the hosts:

Rodrigo Rodriguez is an organizer and coordinator of SWOP’s community food justice initiative, “Project Feed the Hood”. His family has been sustainably farming in the communities of Northern New Mexico for many generations. Project Feed the Hood is based in traditional methods of farming and seed saving that are both sustainable and culturally relevant. Rodrigo and his fellow SWOP gardeners maintain a large seed library and host many workshops to assist community members, schools, and other community groups seeking to grow food and build healthy communities and lifestyles all over the state of NM. Rodrigo started at SWOP as a youth intern in 2006. He is the proud father of Juanita Maiz. 

Travis McKenzie is the co-founder of Project Feed the Hood and a middle school social studies and garden elective teacher. For over a decade, Travis has worked hard to uplift food justice values in schools, in state policy and in national movement work. When he is not growing food you may find him playing his sax or flute, or drumming it up—he brings music wherever he goes.  

This episode is sponsored by:


Episode Three: Karlos Gauna Schmieder and Robby Rodriguez

In this longer third episode of SWOP’s 40th Anniversary Podcast Karlos Gauna Schmieder and Robby Rodriguez share some hilarious moments from their many years at SWOP including shenanigans at the U.S. Mexico border. They also reflect on how organizing has changed and each generation builds on the next.

About the hosts:

Karlos Gauna Schmieder has been a SWOP stalwart for most of his life, as his parents, founder Jeanne Gauna and Eric Schmieder, were cornerstones of the organization. Karlos was active in our youth group in the 90s, served on our staff in a Communications role in the 00s, and is now facilitating the ArribaNM project, which works with talented local people to create mobile engagement tools to spur community vision. Today he serves as a board member for SWOP.

Robby Rodriguez is originally from Pico Rivera, California by way of Tucson, Arizona and has called New Mexico home for most of the last twenty-some years. Robby cut his teeth as a community organizer, working on issues such as youth development, corporate accountability, environmental health and indigenous rights.  During his six years as the Executive Director of the Albuquerque based SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP), Robby helped the organization achieve key policy changes related to economic development and environmental protection at the state and local level.  During this time, he co-authored a book on generational change in the non-profit sector titled Working Across Generations:  Defining The Future of Non Profit Leadership (Jossey Bass, 2008). 

This episode is sponsored by:

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Episode Two: Amanda Gallegos and Janelle Astorga-Ramos

The second episode of SWOP’s 40th Anniversary Podcast features a conversation between the fierce and hardworking Amanda Gallegos and Janelle Astorga-Ramos. They talk about haunted hotels, out of town conference shenanigans and how proud they are to be a part of the SWOP family.

About the hosts:

Janelle Astorga-Ramos and Amanda Gallegos after a successful podcast recording session

Amanda Gallegos

Field Organizer - Youth Rights

Amanda was born and raised in the North valley of Albuquerque, New Mexico and is almost 20 years old. She was lucky to grow up deeply ingrained in her Chicano/ Mexican roots, farming on her grandparents land. Amanda got involved in SWOP in 2010 while her mother, Trish, was doing a

college internship at SWOP. Since then she has spent many years organizing within the SWOP youth group, and food justice areas. Amanda has contributed to numerous campaigns at SWOP including being one of the writers on our Student Bill of Rights, leading the largest ever youth employment program in New Mexico two years, and has planned and executed several local and national conferences. She has also been a critical member of the SWOP fundraising team, leading many of our grassroots fundraising programs and foundation fundraising for our youth organizing campaigns. Amanda has been the youth organizer at SWOP since February of 2017. Amanda is also a student working on her Bachelors in Chicana/o Studies.


Janelle Astorga-Ramos

Janelle was born and raised in Albuquerque, and grew up in the San José neighborhood. Janelle is Junior at the University of New Mexico studying Political Science and Chicano/a studies. She has advocated for educational equity for many years and is especially focused on the testing epidemic. Janelle has organized walk outs that received national attention as well as campaigns and training's in collaboration with Albuquerque Public Schools and Youth Voices in Action for Change (VIA). Janelle has been a member of the SouthWest Organizing Project since the summer of 2014 when she was a YES intern and has stayed dedicated to the mission and vision of SWOP. She now proudly serves SWOP as the board secretary.

This Episode is Sponsored By:


They have a podcast too!

Episode One: beva sanchez-padilla and Divana Olivas

For our inaugural episode beva sanchez-padilla and Divana Olivas sit down and chat about their dreams for SWOP, share some favorite stories and challenge each other to answer questions "all fast."


About the hosts:













beva sanchez-padilla (left) and Divana Olivas record episode 1

beva sanchez-padilla is a native New Mexican and a long-time Chicano rights activist, artist, poet, and film maker. She is a long time member and board member of SWOP before coming on staff to facilitate our feminisms organizing work in 2015. She honors her mother Maria Barbarita for giving her the foundation to care for women, families and communities. She is proud of her daughters Micaela and Siboney who are strong activists in their communities. 

Divana Olivas is a former SWOP Board Member and Youth program participant who is currently working on her PhD. Her dissertation is focused on: Race, Gender, and Activism in Transnational Agricultural Policy in New Mexico: 1912-2010s. She is working on a chapter about SWOP and Anti-colonial Food Activism with Project Feed the Hood.

Divana participated in SWOP’s Youth Employment Summer program in the summer of 2014. Since then she has been a key volunteer in the organization’s youth and food justice programs.

This episode of the SWOP 40th Anniversary Podcast is sponsored by


© 2019 by Southwest Organizing Project Albuquerque

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