Welcome to the Evolving Man Project’s “Evolved Man of the Week” profile. Each week we will highlight an individual that embodies what it means to be an evolved person, famous and non-famous individual alike. The world needs to know their stories and deeds. This week’s honor goes to Indigenous community leader, counselor, and artist, Vince Flores-Maldonado.
Flores-Maldonado grew up a few miles from Phoenix, AZ. He was drawn to gangs in the Yaqui community of Guadalupe, south of Phoenix. He spent time in juvie as a youth and in prison as a young adult. He stated that the gang provided a sense of brotherhood, but years later, upon reflection, Flores-Maldonado realized it was a false sense of brotherhood.
After years in and out of the criminal justice system, Flores-Maldonado became depressed, and that depression led to addiction. He sought to heal through the traditional methods people used, like the church, therapy, and the 12-Step Program to beat his drug and alcohol addiction. Mr. Maldonado stated:
“But I wasn’t connecting with Western medicine,”… “It helped me put a name to what I was feeling, but I wasn’t progressing, and I didn’t feel whole.”
Around that time, Flores-Maldonado traveled with his uncle to reservations in Arizona, California, and the Dakotas to reconnect with his Indigenous roots. The teachings he picked up along the way changed his life, especially when he attended a sweat-lodge ceremony high in the barren, windy mountains of southern California.
Connecting with his native roots and indigenous spirituality led to a massive shift in his way of navigating the world. Going back to Native traditions helped Flores-Maldonado kick his additions, and he’s been thirteen years sober. Flores-Maldonado changed his life, but he wanted to give back. Flores-Maldonado has a bachelor’s in substance abuse counseling from Grand Canyon University and is working on a master’s degree. Flores-Maldonado found his calling through challenging life experiences, a solid educational background, and a renewed purpose thanks to a deep understanding of his cultural heritage.
He is the founder and CEO of Native Music Coalition. This nonprofit organization offers Indigenous youth, families, and adults an opportunity to explore Native American culture with activities designed to heal, restore and preserve Indigenous identity. The Program provides services to communities in Southern Arizona.
Flores-Maldonado, an artist who began the coalition’s work with Yaqui families in 2016 — two years before it became a nonprofit — received help from other Indigenous artists who recognized Western medicine was not treating the spiritual needs of Native American families.
The artists, including a singer, a DJ, and a muralist, held events for youth and families, and they saw a cultural yearning among participants in search of Native American spiritual healing as an integral part of treatment that included substance abuse, depression, physical and emotional abuse, anxiety and bereavement.
Here is Vince Flores-Maldonado, in his words about what his organization provides Indigoeus youth:
“We provide a wide array of services, from cultural awareness sessions, culturally relevant outings, a youth program to help kids from 4 to 18 years of age find ways to develop coping and life skills, sober living homes for men, women, and children, individual therapy, to peer support. What sets us apart is that we recognize the need to prioritize our spiritual identity and incorporate that into everything we do for the community. When you walk into our doors at NMC, you will see a face that is familiar as we strive to hire people who grew up in the communities we serve. So far, we have been able to help tribal communities across Arizona.”
Vince Flores-Maldonado embodies what it means to be an Evolved Man and changed his life for the better. He continues to pay it forward and help out others in his community. We at the Evolving Man Project salute Vince Flores-Maldonado for his fantastic work and for helping empower his community. Today we honor Vince Flores-Maldonado as our Evolved Man of the Week.