TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) – The story of Alexandra McNichols-Torroledo begins in Bogota, Colombia where she was born.

A quiet upbringing in Colombia would see her father being one of her biggest influences in her life. She said that her father was very vocal and often involved in political issues in the country.

“My father was always involved in political issues and I spent a lot of time with my father,” McNichols-Torroledo said. “He was basically my strongest influence.”

She would travel to the states for school where she would find and advance her love for photography. She thanked the many influences that she had during her time at Indiana State University.

Now with strong roots in Terre Haute, McNichols-Torroledo would continue to keep perfecting her craft. However, in 2011, she wanted to reconnect with her native country.

This would be a very significant trip for her as she would find the subject for much of her award-winning work.

“I saw these indigenous people and I didn’t know if they were Colombians, Ecuadorians or who they were,” McNichols-Torroledo said. “I was able to meet with these people.”

She would grow fond of indigenous culture not only in South America, but also North America as well. However, a violence stricken Colombia had taken a toll on its indigenous population.

McNichols-Torroledo teamed up with the United Nations to take a trip into one of the most dangerous areas of Colombia to meet with a group of indigenous people.

She said that this was a positive, wonderful trip that would continue to be an inspiration for her work. However, after a wonderful visit, it would end with what she described as being the scariest moment of her life.

“We were stopped by a guerilla group that were fully gunned and they detained us,” she said.

This armed group detained McNichols-Torroledo and her boat for a full day. She said that she feared for her life. A significant moment would follow, she said that a group of indigenous appeared with traditional sticks and arrows and waited until she was release. Almost like an act of solidarity with McNichols-Torroledo.

This is where she made the decision to dedicate her life’s work to work with indigenous groups.

“All the indigenous have come with zero guns with their sacred sticks and their arrows and nothing else,” She explained. “And who knows how many hours they were waiting to see how they could come and get us.”

McNichols-Torroledo would go on to become an accomplished writer and photographer in Terre Haute and in South America. Locally, she recently became the first Latina to showcase photography at the Swope Art Museum.

A legend up and down the Americas but her biggest motivation is right here in Terre Haute with her kids Maya and Gabe. Both said that she’s been a big inspiration to them.

“Yeah, I’m actually interested in indigenous cultures all over the world and not just in Colombia but in other areas,” Maya McNichols said.

Alexandra’s work has even inspired Gabe’s work at Indiana State University.

“I’m currently a history major with a minor in anthropology,” Gabe McNichols said. “A lot of that base has come from her work with indigenous cultures.”

Gabe said that while growing up, his mother’s creativity was radiant in his life. He never felt as if he was in a box.

“I think that she made sure that I wasn’t limiting myself creatively,” he said.