Michaelann Perea


From the time she was a little girl, Michaelann Perea loved to send personal messages to friends and family. “She left little notes for people all the time, like to have a good day at school,” said her mother, Isabel Cavazos of Las Vegas, N.M.

It was a trait that stayed with the Santa Fe community leader through adulthood.

“She believed in making things personal. That’s how you develop relationships,” said her husband, Israel Perea. “Every weekend she would write personal letters to her clients and send them out, and these were handwritten letters. It wasn’t like an email.”

That personal touch and connection to other humans motivated Michaelann Perea, 35, who died in a crash Sept. 7 during a charity bicycle ride for Bike for the Light, an international organization bringing food and clean water to those without.

Perea was known for being a cheerleader for humanity, for bringing comfort to the disenfranchised and for never declining a life in need.

Her smile, friends and family members said, was contagious. An active community volunteer, Perea inspired The Santa Fe New Mexican to create a posthumous award in her honor as part the newspaper’s annual 10 Who Made a Difference volunteer recognition program.

Perea served as the chairwoman of the Santa Fe Community Services Committee, was a board member of the Santa Fe Children’s Museum and was an active member of the Rotary Club of Santa Fe. She recently was named in the inaugural class of “40 Under 40 Top Business Leaders” by the Santa Fe Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

“I met her when she was 17 years old. She was dancing salsa in Las Vegas,” said Carlos Mora, a dance instructor in Santa Fe. “She came to one of my classes one day, and we were friends ever since. She became one of the best salsa dancers in this state, from Santa Fe to Albuquerque; she was even known in San Francisco. She was super friendly and very generous with her time. She had an amazing commitment to life.”

Mora was one of many people from the community who nominated Perea for the 10 Who Made a Difference program.

Mary Anne Stickler wrote in a nomination letter that Perea “was not just a rising star in the Santa Fe community, she was already a star to her family and friends and she was always ready to inspire, educate and roll up her sleeves to get the job done.”

Perea’s mother said she was “always a happy child.”

As a teenager, she was filled with energy. She was a cheerleader, ran cross-country and was a bass player in a band. She helped her father, Chris Cavazos, at the local Boys & Girls Club, likely where she got her start in learning to serve others.

Israel Perea said the two were sweethearts in college. He went to New Mexico State University; she attended New Mexico Highlands University.

The couple had meager beginnings in Las Vegas.

Michaelann went to school while her husband worked. They had their first two children in the city, and after she earned her bachelor’s degree in social work, they moved into a twobedroom casita in Santa Fe. There, they welcomed their third child.

The Perea children are now 15, 14 and 10.

The couple struggled at times, Israel Perea said. “Through the grace of God, we stuck it out,” he added. “We went through some real adversity to get here. She was one of my biggest investments, so I always made sure she could focus on what she was doing.”

Isabel Cavazos said Michaelann Perea was buried next to her sister in Albuquerque. “I’m very proud of who she was and the accomplishments she did in her whole life,” her mother said. “Her spirit lives on and continues to help others.”

Chris Cavazos said his daughter received her strength from her unrelenting faith.

Her husband described that force as “one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. All the different communities and relationships that we built turned into a bunch of different families. The basketball team, the cheerleading team, the piano recitals — there are so many people I feel like she impacted with her awesome smile and placing other people before herself. That’s what she believed in.”

Michaelann Perea worked as a New Mexico area manager for First National 1870 and its Guardian Mortgage Division, but the work was never about money, her husband said. She always told him, ‘I want to make sure they have the right home and that I’m doing this for the right reasons,’ ” he said.

Despite her busy schedule and intense involvement in the couple’s church, the Grove of Santa Fe Christian Church, she always made time for family.

“She was a fantastic mother,” Israel Perea said. “When the boys had their cross country run, she decorated their lockers and decorated the bus. She was the biggest yeller in the stands.”

Outside of family, she served as a founding member of the Sana Rueda performance dance group, where she taught salsa, and during the pandemic she made her courses available virtually.

“She never knew how to say, ‘No’ and so through this entire process, I haven’t said no to anyone, either,” her husband said. “That’s how she lived her life. I told my children, ‘We’re going to do it the way mom did it.’ ”






Santa Fe New Mexican