I Am Not My Father’s Daughter – Wait, Yes I Am
Updated: Jan 6
By Monica Zamora
Chief Judge NM Court of Appeals (retired) and DCG DADvisor
For as long as I can remember, I was told “You are just like your father” and “You couldn’t be any more like your father if you tried.”
As a child, I didn’t want to be like my father, Matias, I just wanted to be me – to be recognized as me and not as my father’s daughter.
As luck would have it, Ancestry.com recently confirmed the majority of my genetic make-up is closer to my father’s. But even before I received the genealogy service’s revelation, and taking into consideration my life’s trajectory, I was proud and honored to acknowledge that I really am my father’s daughter.
I grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico when it was still a small town. We lived in a section of town where there was at least one child in every household. I remember getting together with neighbors for block parties and barbecues. I remember a group of kids going to church with our mothers to clean the church. I remember groups of kids going with our fathers fishing and tent camping. It seemed like everyone knew everyone and everything.
In junior high, I remember taking my lunch money to a neighborhood grocery store to buy a nutritious lunch consisting of chips, soda, and a candy bar. While I was there, I learned that the woman who owned the store was one of my father’s clients. She was gracious enough to call him and let him know that she was happy to meet me. Busted!
I remember sneaking into a rated “R” movie in high school. When the movie ended and we stood up to walk out, lo and behold, who was sitting right behind us? My dad’s secretary. Busted again!
By the time I got home from school, my parents already knew how my day had gone.
My parents emphasized the importance of education. They also provided me and my siblings with a solid moral, ethical, and spiritual background. Equally important was giving back to the community with one’s education, knowledge, and experience. They modeled this behavior of investing in their community with their time and talents. This, in turn, widened their net of friends and acquaintances.
I remember when I applied for a summer high school position with a state government agency. I entered the interview while the gentleman was reviewing my application. He asked me if my father was Matias Zamora. I replied that he was, and he proceeded to tell me the job was mine. I was horrified.
When I got home, I complained to my father that I was not even interviewed before I was offered the job. My father chuckled and told me I was a good kid and I had good grades. He said I would have gotten the job anyway. I wasn't sure I was buying that explanation, but I did take the job.
For college, I decided I would go out-of-state. I really liked the idea of anonymity. No one would know my father or my family. I got a scholarship to a school in Colorado where I learned to fine-tune my downhill ski skills and still get a degree. I went to school during the summer semester and worked to support my skiing vice. However, my nefarious plan to stay in Colorado year-round backfired. After three years, I had enough credits to graduate with a Business Administration degree.
I loved the areas of marketing and advertising. But interestingly, I was always fascinated with my father’s enthusiasm for his profession, the law. I took the following year to continue my anonymity and explore my options. I moved to Washington, D.C., and worked for an engineering and manufacturing firm. I also applied to law school and moved back to New Mexico to attend.
During law school, the “dad connection” was made by professors and lawyers in the community. It was their stories and interactions with my father that made me appreciate his journey from a small town in northern New Mexico to the nationally- and internationally-recognized trial attorney he was. His passion for the law, his enthusiasm in the courtroom, his work ethic, his dedication to his clients, and especially his respect for the legal system were such inspirations that cemented the path of my career.
My father was a great mentor and set such a great example. I was ecstatic to practice law with him and my brother.
In 1965, my father was appointed by the governor to finish out the term of a district court judge. He eventually returned to private practice. Forty years later, my father administered the Oath of Office to me when I was appointed to serve as a district court judge and he robed me with his own original judge’s robe. Seven years after that and with the same robe, he again administered the Oath of Office when I joined the New Mexico Court of Appeals in 2013.
I had the luxury of a loving, supportive, and involved two-parent family. It took growing up to really appreciate it. While I spent my time running away from the “title” early on, there I was all along:
My Father’s Daughter.
M. Monica Zamora is a mother to two amazing sons, Stefan and Alexander, a wonderful daughter-in-law, Trish, and three beautiful grandchildren, Kyle, Austin, and Emeline. She has been married for 32 fabulous years to Rick, and her family enjoys spending time together, particularly in the great outdoors skiing and snowboarding. She retired from the New Mexico judiciary as Chief Judge in January 2020.
Prior to her appointment to the judiciary, Judge Zamora was in private practice for more than 18 years where she focused on civil rights litigation and international adoptions. She then served as a District Court Judge, assigned to the Children’s Court Division, presiding over child welfare (abuse and neglect) cases as well as juvenile delinquency. She joined the New Mexico Court of Appeals from December 2012 until her recent retirement. Her greatest takeaway from the judiciary presiding over and reviewing cases is the incredible and delicate responsibility judges have in making decisions resulting in the direct and indirect impact of the judiciary and the long-lasting ramifications of these decisions on the members of one’s community.