“It is very hard to remember that events now long in the past were once in the future.”
— Frederic William Maitland
The downtown mural will be erected from the outside in. The panels will begin with the earliest period (pre-Spanish incursion) and latest period (today’s issues, conflicts, and events), working its way to the middle (the turn of the century 1880-1912). Therefore we will skip back and forth in order to describe what the public will be viewing, albeit out of a traditional timeline sequence.
One ongoing issue that has stood the test of time of “El Norte” has been, and perhaps will always be, water. At the forefront of these water issues have been the preservation of our acequias, the conflict surrounding the Storrie Lake reservoir, and Texas demanding our water. However, more recently, there has been a new threat to our precious water supply. Gas and Oil Company’s wanting to “frack” in Mora and San Miguel Counties. A resistance group in Mora has been formed (Drilling Mora County), led by Kathleen Dudley and other community members, in order to protect the most precious resource we have.
The second (arguably) most important ongoing issue may very well be land. Pueblo, Spanish, and individual land grants have been an ongoing issue of contention. Most recently, our public lands (White Peak) were swapped to private ranchers by our land commissioner (Patrick Lyons).
Last year, the first day of the legislature, over 100 “Norteños” rallied at the roundhouse protesting the land swap of White Peak. There was an equal number at the State land commissioners’ office. This grassroots struggle ended in a victory for “the people.” Shortly after the 2010 election (and newly elected land commissioner Ray Powell), the New Mexico Supreme Court vacated the swap between the two ranchers and the state land commissioner, returning the herencia (heritage) to the people.
The 1199 voted for a union at Alta Vista Hospital. The corporate office in Tennessee is refusing to recognize the union. They have been harassing our community members in order to win the war of attrition. The ending of this story has yet to be written.
After a long overdue battle, PNM agreed to shut down the plant on the west side of Las Vegas. Jose C. de Baca filed a lawsuit at the onset of this endeavor, to stop the construction of this plant.
The final illustration on the mural, but certainly not the least contentious issue of “El Norte,” was the top story of 2010 (according to the Las Vegas Optic): “the wind energy ordinance.” The conclusion of this countywide conflict has yet to be written. All agree that alternative energy should be the course of our future. The conflict arises over whether or not the turbines should be in close proximity to our homes, the health effects to community members, and who will reap the benefits?
There was a political forum held at the World College on this very issue (during the primary elections 2010 for San Miguel County Commission race). The forum was titled, “The Wind Energy Forum” organized by Rio Gallinas School. Not one incumbent of the San Miguel County Commission attended the forum. Every challenger agreed on a minimum 3-mile setback (minimum where turbines would be erected from people’s homes). Both incumbents lost the election, and “the people” are watching to see if the newly elected commissioners are true to their word.
I am painfully aware that one cannot please all of the people all of the time. If we praise the natives, we risk condemning the Spanish. If we honor the struggles of the Spanish settlers, we may demonize the Anglo immigrants. If we speak of contemporary conflicts, we must have an agenda. From Oñate to Invenergy (the Chicago wind energy corporation) we hope only to describe the issues, conflicts, and resolutions as seen through the eyes of the masses, “the people.”
We assure our readers that the subject matter of the mural consists of hundreds of surveys compiled throughout “El Norte” by “the people”, in order to validate the history of the common people, the masses, and grassroots resistance to the status quo.
Rock Ulibarri is a local resident and educator. He may be reached at 505-440-9776.