A Conversation with Judge Mariana Vielma, 0321 COBJ, Vol. 50, No. 3 Pg. 50

PositionVol. 50, 3 [Page 50]

50 Colo.Law. 50

A Conversation with Judge Mariana Vielma

Vol. 50, No. 3 [Page 50]

Colorado Lawyer

March, 2021



This Q&A with Judge Mariana Vielma is part of a series of interviews with diverse lawyers conducted by the CBA/DBA Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity (EDI) Joint Steering Committee. At the time of this interview, Judge Vielma was serving as a county court and district court magistrate in the 17th Judicial District. She has since been appointed to the Adams County Court bench. The EDI Committee is excited to highlight Judge Vielma and thankful she took the time to share her story with us.

Tell us about your family and where you grew up.

My father is an immigrant from Mexico and my mom comes from a family that, for many generations, lived in New Mexico. When you hear the term, "we were here, and then the border crossed us," it refers to people who lived in Mexico, and then when the United States obtained that land, the people who already lived there became U.S. citizens. This was the case with my mother's family.

I am a Colorado native born in Denver, but I have lived in a lot of places in Colorado. We lived close to downtown Denver until I was almost 5, then we moved to Pierce, a small town in Weld County where my mom grew up. My parents divorced, and a few years later my mom remarried. My step father worked in the fields and on farms. My mom also worked in the fields in the summer, but otherwise, she was a stay-at-home mom and was there for us every day when we came home from school. We moved around to different places in Weld County and ended up in Larimer County for a couple of years, where my dad worked at another farm. We never lived in the same house or the same place more than a couple years, which was hard.

As a kid, the one tiling I wanted was to go to college. I knew that was the only way to create options for my family. At the end of elementary school, I noticed we were working in the fields in the summer and other kids were doing tilings like going to camp, going on vacations, and playing sports or instruments. It was around that time I realized that, while I may not have had a lot of money, the classroom was an even playing field for everyone. I wanted to do well enough in school to get a scholarship to go to college and be a teacher. This would allow me to share with others a gift that nobody could ever take away: the gift of education. Doing well in school and going to college would be the way for me to help lift my family up and forward.

But when I was 16, my family moved to Mexico. I couldn't bear the thought of not finishing high school, so I convinced my parents to let me stay in Pierce with an aunt and uncle. I finished my sophomore year and went to Mexico to be with my family for the summer, or so I thought. When my mom was sick that summer, I stayed to be with my family but never lost sight of my dream of going to college. After two years in Mexico, we moved back to Colorado. I decided the quickest way to college would be a GED, so I took the test and passed it one month before the rest of my high school class graduated.

My family is very tightly knit and has always been a source of strength and motivation for me. I wasn't able to go to college right away. As the oldest of five children, I wanted to work and help my family. I wanted my brothers and sisters to have opportunities in school that I didn't have. The next year, we moved to Idaho to work on potato farms. I worked a few years, first in a processing plant, then sorting potatoes in the fields and in a warehouse, eventually working my way to the warehouse secretary. One day the manager came to me and asked me to calculate a percentage for him. I thought, "Enough. This dude is getting paid to be the manager but needs me to do his math for him?! It's time to go to college!"

I went to legal assistant school at the local vocational technical college—I wanted a job that...

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