ANTHONY, N.M. — Josh Jasso stood among mounds of greenery in an otherwise parched expanse, squinting at the fields of La Semilla Community Farm. “We’re feeling smaller and smaller in our fractured landscape,” said Jasso, the farm manager at La Semilla, which is located on a stretch of highway in Anthony, a speck in the Chihuahuan Desert along the Texas state line. Its 14 acres are hemmed in by a railyard owned by an El Paso-based gravel company, a young pecan farm and fields of alfalfa. This story was originally published by Searchlight New Mexico and is reprinted with permission. Roughly 24 miles to the south, a rumble of semitrucks crosses the U.S.-Mexico border, carrying tons of freight from one side to the other.
ByEd Williams and Wufei Yu, Searchlight New Mexico |
MONTEREY PARK, Calif. — Irving Lin, a jovial entrepreneur in his late 60’s, wanted to share a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a near-miraculous way out of the economic devastation wrought on Southern California’s Chinese communities by the pandemic: the gift of marijuana. “We are making a fortune in Oklahoma, and you can too,” Lin, speaking in Mandarin, told a crowd of 30 potential investors gathered for a PowerPoint presentation at a Chinese cultural center on Dec. 5. The return on investment is as high as 1,200 percent, Lin explained eagerly.
Rodney Applewhite, 25, was driving through New Mexico late last week on his way to Arizona to spend Thanksgiving with his mother and other family members.
Just outside of Los Lunas, on the last leg of a trip that started in South Bend, Indiana, a New Mexico State Police officer attempted to pull Applewhite over for what was described as a traffic stop. It was 8:32 a.m., a NMSP press release said. About 10 minutes later, two state troopers tried to arrest Applewhite. When an altercation occurred with the first officer, the second officer shot Applewhite, firing “at least one round,” the NMSP said. Applewhite, unarmed, died that day in the hospital.
ByElizabeth Flock and Mark Scialla, Searchlight New Mexico |
TAOS — It was the evening of Aug. 25, 2019, and William Berry, a 63-year-old former ski lift operator, had been arrested earlier that day for driving without a license. He struggled to breathe in his cell at the Taos County Adult Detention Center and repeatedly asked the guards for his asthma medication. His requests were ignored, until finally, at 9 p.m., seven hours after Berry was booked, Sgt. Leroy Vigil told him to step out of his cell if he wanted his medicine, according to Berry.
SHIPROCK, N.M. — In the fertile northeast corner of the Navajo Nation, fields that only months ago were traditional open-air corn farms are now stuffed with hundreds of industrial-sized greenhouses, each glowing with artificial lights and brimming with emerald cannabis plants. Security cameras ring the perimeters and hired guards in flak jackets patrol the public roads alongside the farms.
Every weekday throughout the summer, a group of local kids woke at sunrise and arrived at the farm by 7:30, ready for a 10-hour shift of hard labor under the high desert sun. Many were teenagers, 13- and 14-year-olds lured by offers of quick cash. A few were as young as 10. Joining them were scores of foreign workers — an estimated 1,000 people, many of them Chinese immigrants brought to New Mexico from Los Angeles, according to Navajo Nation Police Chief Phillip Francisco.
Searchlight New Mexico reported and originally published this story, and it is republished with permission.
David, 28, was counting the days until January 6, 2012, when his prison sentence would end and he would be released on parole. He had earned his GED diploma inside and lined up some job options in construction and landscaping around Albuquerque. But the date came and went, and still the state kept him locked up.
The problem was housing. There was only one halfway house in the state that would take an inmate like David — a convicted sex offender — and it had a long waiting list. If he wanted to get a bed there anytime soon, David would have to buy his freedom — in cash.
This story originally appeared at Searchlight New Mexico and is republished here with permission.
ByEd Williams and Rachel Needham, Searchlight New Mexico |
Kinsey Moores steeled her nerves and tried to appear unruffled as she worked intake at Albuquerque’s S.A.F.E House this week. Picking up a pair of gloves from a dwindling supply of donated PPE (personal protective equipment), she reached for a thermometer and asked the now-routine question asked of every person seeking help at the city’s largest domestic violence shelter.
“Have you experienced any kind of dry cough or fever?”
“I just have to keep a smile on my face and show that we’re here to help, we’re not going to turn anybody away,” said Moores, 22, who started her job last August after graduating from the Child and Family Studies program at the University of New Mexico. “One of the hardest things is just coming in to work with a mindset that everything is going to be OK, we’re going to get through this.”
Across New Mexico, domestic violence survivors and the shelters that serve them are confronting a new and uncertain landscape brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Stay-at-home orders have effectively kept victims inside with their abusers, depriving them of a safe time and place to call for help. It couldn’t have come at a more ominous time.
Fernando D., a 35-year-old father of two has crossed the border from Juárez to El Paso to donate blood plasma twice a week, every week, for two years straight. He has a dark scar on both arms where the needle pricks, but he considers it a small price to pay for the $400 a month he earns “donating” plasma in the U.S.
The money helps feed his family. “I have so many expenses,” he said. “I have to fix my truck. I have to pay the bills of the house.
It was right after the fifth-period bell last October that Sebastian Montano lay face down in the grass outside Alamogordo High School, screaming for his mother, as two police officers pinned him to the ground and thrust a Taser in his back. Moments earlier, a staff member had called police after learning that the 16-year-old, a special needs student who’d recently dropped out, was now trespassing on school grounds. A shy teenager with light brown hair and big green eyes, Sebastian was well known to staff and students at Alamogordo High. He had a long and messy school history, including 16 documented run-ins with school police officers — all in relation to behaviors associated with his disabilities: autism spectrum disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, PTSD, epilepsy, and ADHD. But he was also a boy who showed great promise.
July 17 is the best of days in the Gaytan household, because it marks the birthday of 12-year-old Ian, who lives with his grandparents in a doublewide mobile home on a dirt road in Española. And July 17 is the worst of days, because it marks the anniversary of the shooting death of his 20-year-old mother, Jasmine Gaytan, at the hands of his father, Leroy Fresquez, Jr.
It has been left to Olga Gaytan, a 55-year-old immigrant from Guanajuato, Mexico, to make sense of the contradictions. “People say I’m his grandma, but I always say ‘No, I’m his mother,’” said Gaytan, who stepped in and adopted her grandson following the 2009 murder of her daughter. Jasmine and Leroy had known each other ever since their days at Carlos F. Vigil Middle School, the same school Ian now attends. It is the school where the two of them met, and the school from which they both dropped out in seventh grade.