Professor Teresa Mesa is all smiles. After giving a warm handshake and gesturing to a comfy armchair, Mesa, a senior lecturer in the Hispanic Studies department, is off and running, talking about the various objects in her office.
Mesa doesn’t think of her office as “decorated,” per se. Rather, it speaks to who she is and the way she lives.
“It’s the way I connect to the world, people, friends, family and even students,” Mesa explains.
None of the objects in her office are there for purely decorative purposes.
“I don’t really go and say I’m going to put this there because it looks good,” Mesa said. “I get something or someone gives me something and I put it someplace; it just fits!”
Above Mesa’s desk hang three distinct objects.
“I would say these are my very precious things,” Mesa said, gesturing to a photo, a mask and a painting. The mask was acquired from Tyrone Guzman, the late executive director of Centro Tyrone Guzman.
“No one wanted the mask because it was kind of scary,” Mesa joked, explaining that Guzman was a collector of masks. The picture to its right comes from the celebration of Día de los Muertos. Mesa pointed to the painting, explaining that Guzman was a devout Catholic who painted and carved images of saints.
“This was given to me by his widow… It is the representation of the archangel Rafael,” Mesa said.
On a less serious note, Mesa noted that while many of the objects in her office are precious, there are some objects that she wouldn’t have in her office, but she must. Mesa walks over to one of the many bookshelves, and points out a Barbie in a hot pink dress.
“I’m not a Barbie person,” Mesa admitted, “but this one I have up because she means so much to me, she was a very special person.”
Crossing over the room, Mesa highlighted a sock puppet given to her by a student.
“This one is a puppet, and this one is of me, with my scarf and my white hair,” Mesa said with a small chuckle.
On a shelf below sits a handmade book titled El mundo según Teresa, a gift from a student.
“I really like when my students do that,” Mesa said with a smile.
With a grin, Mesa admitted that when she does need to relax she will close the door, lay on the floor and meditate for a little bit.
For Mesa, the meanings of objects carry more significance than the locations from where she acquired them. Most recently, Mesa returned from a trip to Spain and Morocco, where she and two of her oldest friends bought a small souvenir camel and named it Mohammed, or Momo.
“We took pictures of Momo everywhere we went,” Mesa explained. Having returned to Macalester, Mesa plans to take pictures of her beloved camel in her office as well as the snow. To Mesa, the trip with her friends was very special and vaulted Momo the camel to an important place in her office space.
Mesa is quite the world traveler, bringing objects back from Mexico, Colombia, Cuba, Peru and Spain. “I guess everywhere!” Mesa said, describing her exhaustive list of places.
Near her window, she keeps a pile of small rocks.
“I try to bring rocks and return rocks to rivers,” she said. Mesa often visits the Mississippi River and releases some rocks while picking up new ones. “I always return them!” she reassured.
When asked if the office is representative of her as a person, Mesa laughed and said, “I think so—a busy, busy person.” It is apparent that Mesa has many interests, as her objects come from all over the world, each with their own importance. “It’s my connection to people and things that are important to me and close to my heart,” Mesa said with a smile. Many of Mesa’s objects come from her students, a connection that is very important to her. Above her desk, at eye level, is a photograph of Mesa with a few of her previous students. Mesa cited her students as the reason she comes to work every day, something that is clearly reflected in her office.