“Tony, Tony look around! Something’s lost and must be found!” In the beginning there was only a slender ribbon of water snaking its way down the hill and into the desert. At the end of the last ice age, prehistoric … Continue reading
Chris Jinzo is a kind of folk hero in our community. My dad remembers coming home from work one day and seeing the bulldozers and police cars along the side of the highway. Jinzo, the acequia mayordomo, was wedged in between them with a shotgun. His family was one of the first to settle in the area in the 1800s. When Mike Knight, a local developer, tried to buy up the village of San Antonio, New Mexico without the proper permits, Jinzo stood his ground. In doing so he protected the water rights of the spring that his family had drank from for centuries. Knight backed down and the residents of San Antonio partnered with the Bernalillo County Open Space to preserve the area. Jinzo’s actions that day have inspired newcomers, including my father, to protect the unique landscape and culture of the Sandia mountains.
When Walmart enters a new town it is often met with a local resistance. The retail store strong-arms its way in anyway and muffles dissent. Yet, when construction on a new super-center was proposed a mile down the road from San Antonio it was met with such a fiercely coordinated opposition that ground was never broken. Attempts by other big box stores to move into the East Mountains have met similar demises. Years ago, Blockbuster managed to open up a store here, but no one patronized it and it withered away. Strangely, even after streaming video providers like Netflix pushed that business to bankruptcy, East Mountain Video, a mom n’ pop joint run out of the back of a house, continues to rent VHS and DVDs down the road from us. For some reason small businesses flourish along the roadside, as big retail chains struggle to establish themselves. Continue reading
Growing up out West, I’ve become adverse to sticking solely to the trail and one day I got lost. I was descending the steep face of Sandia Peak and midway down I found myself chasing mule deer tracks into the desert.
I could clearly see Albuquerque, my destination, but without shade, water, or a clear path to guide me, I soon succumbed to a dizzy wandering. In the glaring midday sun my vision became impaired by stars and a mirage of halos. I like to believe that my guardian angel led me to that 7-Eleven at the edge of town where I quenched my thirst on a slurpie and brain-freezed myself back to life.
Eventually anyone who spends some time in New Mexico gets heat stroke. You forget to drink water, your lips get painfully chapped, and you end up looking like a sunburned Zozobra. The only remedy to a fever dream is to wake up in an ice cold bath.
Sandia is Spanish for Watermelon and at dusk the mountain turns pink on the arid west side. The green forested rolling hills of the east side becomes the rind. It’s cooler in the higher eastern elevations and the stream at San Antonio is an oasis. Native Americans, Spaniards, and Gringo’s alike competed with the rest of the animals in the woods for a drink at the spring. One party after another gained control over its access, but the others have not gone away. The acequia at San Antonio fuels diversity. Continue reading
The first time this movie was screened it was on the back wall of Tijeras church for the East Mountains of New Mexico’s Centennial Celebration. It was ten minutes before the start of the show and the entire building was packed. Just under a hundred people crammed inside the church; others peered through the doorway like it was Las Posadas.
Five minutes before my screening, the local historical society, who had organized the Centennial Celebration, made a hasty announcement. Continue reading
I’m sitting in a ramshackle compound in Silanga village, one of the deepest and most neglected areas of Kibera slum, with an impossible task. As one of the Water and Sanitation health workers on this project I’m supposed to be training the locals on how to make safe storage containers for drinking water. Back in the United States our WATSAN team often spoke of employing this simple technology. In the field it would be a core strategy in getting our target population to drink clean water. I’ve got a bucket and a little metal valve, but no way to attach the two. In a place like Kibera resources are hard to come by and tools are no exception.
After asking around for a while, Hellen, one of the residents that we’re working with, disappears and comes back with a hammer and one nail. It’s not the ideal situation, but I decide to make do with what we’ve got. At least I can make a hole in the bucket. I start hammering, but am unable to drive the nail through the plastic. I’m about to give up when one of our partners from a local NGO bursts through the door, fresh from his office in town.
“What are you doing?” He exclaims. “You’re not going to get the nail into that thing without stabilizing it first.”
My partner grabs a large rock from the ground and puts it into the bottom of the bucket. He gives the nail a whack and down it goes. His satisfied grin immediately fades when I show him the valve that needs to fit in the pin-sized hole.
“So what you do now, eh, is make that nail hot, hot,” he explains. “Then you move it around in the hole to melt the plastic.”
I ask Hellen for a candle and this makes my partner scowl.
“No! You need to heat it up on a stove. The nail is going to be really hot so you better get some pliers to hold it.”