Friday, August 15, 2014

Dateline Questa: A Visit To The Village At The Center Of The Economic Storm, Plus: 1st Journal Guv Poll This Sunday 

A Funeral in Questa
As we rolled into Questa Thursday we expected a sleepy village at midday and wondered if there would be many folks around to talk with about the big story here--the closing of the Chevron Molybdenum mine and the loss of 300 jobs. But as we neared St. Anthony's Church suddenly dozens of village residents appeared.

Surprised, we quickly pulled over and soon learned that a burial service with military honors was being held for Questa native Floyd Ortega who had served in Vietnam.

We were invited to join the mourners at the church's well-maintained cemetery across the highway from the parish center. We walked up the hill to the cemetery that is watched over by the splendid Sangre De Cristo Mountains. As the priest began the service we tried not to think that the funeral could be a sad metaphor for the village's future. But maybe not.

Ronald Gallegos, born and raised in Questa, but now living in EspaƱola, said the 200 year old village will survive, aided by the same way of life before the mine opened 100 years ago:

It will revert to a time similar to when sheepherding was the main work. The men would leave to work with the sheep for days and then return to their families. Now many of the miners will seek jobs elsewhere but continue to live here. Some will leave but the ties to the land are deep.

Gallegos, brother of the local District Attorney Donald Gallegos, was among several in Questa who told us some miners have already found jobs in the booming southeast NM oil fields. Others search for work closer by in Espanola and Los Alamos.

Federal assistance for the miners has been rejected. The last paychecks went out at the beginning of the month. Some will be hired by the mine for much lower paying reclamation jobs that will last two years. Others will get jobless benefits but they last only 26 weeks. Catherine O'Neill, executive director of the UNM-Taos branch, says the school is working to get the miners retrained.

The economic pain from the mine shutdown will be felt throughout Taos County and while Ronald Gallegos may be right that some miners will find a way to stay, the closure will hasten the long-term depopulation trend of rural New Mexico.

They fired a three gun volley and played taps for Floyd Ortega and then handed the American flag to his tearful mother. After he was placed in his native ground, a long line of mourners carefully walked back down the hill and into an uncertain future.


It has been a lousy year for public polling when it comes to the NM Governor's race. The surveys have been all over the map and criticized by both Dems and R's. Maybe the first of three Guv polls planned by the ABQ Journal and conducted this week will provide some clarity. It will be released Sunday. The key number for Gov. Martinez is 50 percent. Will she be at or over that mark that signifies she is in good shape for her re-elect?  

Meanwhile, this reader strikes back against the Dem consultants who have been down on Dem Gary King's Guv campaign:

It's up to the Dems to talk smack about the person sleeping in the governor's mansion, and that's not Gary King. It's Susana Martinez. The buck stops on her desk, not his. She is accountable for the mess that New Mexico has become. We are in the initial phase of a campaign wherein those who really oppose another four (4) years of Susana's rule are criticizing her, not Gary. If the unnamed "veteran Dem consultants" are for real, they would be lobbing at least one (1) mortar per day into Susana's camp, plus writing checks for Gary. But, they're not. Instead, they're trashing Gary. Be they Martinez Moles, Joe?

No, they are not "Martinez Moles" but they do burrow deep into La Politica.

Reporting to you from Questa, I'm Joe Monahan.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author
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