Being raised in a community where your history connects to every part of your present, it is difficult to find the courage to leave. It is similarly difficult to forge a path and stay.
Questa del Rio News is committed to highlighting different members of our community, both those who have created their paths and planted their own roots in the community that raised them, and those who have pursued lives outside of the community – through our Representando series. This series is dedicated to those who are Representando communities in northern Taos County, in various facets of life.
For our October series, we interviewed Costilla native Jose Lovato. Jose graduated from Questa Junior/Senior High School in 2003. Upon graduation, he immediately moved to Denver with his now-wife Danielle (Rael) Lovato so he could attend college. “My first daughter was born when I finished school, so I was on a fast track to get my degree so I could start working and providing for my family,” Jose recalls.
He attended the ITT Technical Institute in Denver where he obtained his electrical engineering degree in three years. He became an engineer and project manager in Denver and he and his family lived there for ten years. Having worked for Fortune 500 companies, Jose’s family was on an upward trajectory, until suddenly it came to a screeching halt in 2010. “The tech bust happened and many of us working in this industry were laid off. There were no jobs, it was a scary time for me, with a family to provide for,” he says.
Returning home after living in the city is not an easy thing to do for many, however, Jose found himself returning out of necessity to sell wood to make ends meet. It was then that home provided more opportunities for his family’s future. He was able to make connections with Luis Reyes, the CEO of Kit Carson Electric Cooperative in Taos.
While Jose didn’t have much experience with fiber optics, his engineering background proved that skills translate.
“I remember when I met with him, he told me ‘if you can get fast internet to Amalia and Costilla, then I know we can reach rural areas, and I know Taos will be an easy project for you.’ I knew I could do it, and that’s what I did.”
Having grown up in a time when online access was the dial-up 30 seconds to a minute-long wait, Jose knew firsthand the importance of having fast-speed internet in rural communities, and how impactful that could be for younger people who utilize the internet for educational purposes.
He is proud to say that Amalia was the first location Kit Carson provided fast internet to through this project.
Working his way up through the cooperative, Jose has now been with Kit Carson for 13.5 years and currently serves as general manager of the internet.
Seeing the impact his work has made on local communities that have historically been marginalized and forgotten in the forefront of progress, Jose finds pride knowing his work contributed to providing access and inclusion to communities just like the one he grew up in.
“It’s great to see what we’ve done over the past nearly 14 years. My parents used to stay away from computers and now, I can’t get my dad off the computer sometimes,” he says as he laughs.
His work is not done. While he is working to reach more rural communities in the northern areas of the state to bring additional access, he is also working to grow the opportunities for education integration and career advancement with the work currently being done at Kit Carson Cooperative.
“I have been working with the Santa Fe Community College to help us get certifications for guys who have worked in the field who didn’t go to college but have the skills to do the work,” he says.
In addition to his work at Kit Carson, Jose also serves on the Questa Independent School Board, Credit Union Board of Directors, and is the Mariachi Booster Club President.
“In my work with the school board, I am working to get the public education department (PED) to recognize internships with Kit Carson as school curriculum, not only for Questa students but for Penasco and Taos kids, too,” Jose says.
Jose was elected in 2013 to the school board. At that time, the school had been taken over by the PED. It was a tumultuous time for Questa Independent Schools. This didn’t scare him away, but instead motivated him to work to make meaningful changes to help the school district get back on track.
“There was a lot to learn when I joined the board. I am grateful I had leaders like Bernie Torres, who showed me the ropes of navigating politics while pushing forward for meaningful change,” he says.
He is proud to say that the school is in much better standing today than ever before. Many of the programs which were lost — including welding, home economics, and woodshop — have been reintroduced as electives.
When asked what the main contributions to the downfall of the school were, he attributes much of it to the instability of the leadership. “We had so much turnover with superintendents and principals who were using Questa as stepping stones or who weren’t invested in our mission to serve our students. With that instability, it will eventually trickle down and that’s what happened. We are so grateful we have a long-term superintendent who is now invested in our students,” Jose says.
When asked what the future holds, Jose says he is focused on maintaining his busy life and involvement for as long as he is able.
Jose and Danielle recently joined the co-ownership of the Questa Wildcats Den, where his wife manages back-end operations. Together, they have three children: two daughters and one son. Their eldest daughter is a college student, in her second year at the University of New Mexico MD program where she is studying to be an anesthesiologist. Their other daughter is a sophomore at Questa High School, and their son is a second-grader at Alta Vista Elementary School.
When asked how he is able to serve his community in such a meaningful way, Jose makes no hesitation in raising up his wife Danielle and their children, who have been his support and anchor through the years. “I couldn’t be involved and give as much as I do if it wasn’t for them. My wife makes me a better person every single day and I do everything I do for my family,” he says.