Editor’s note: Liberty Nation is trekking through middle America to take the pulse of the forgotten masses. You know, the people who reside between the left and right coasts, that dwell in rural areas or small towns, and whom the media and politicians have ignored for decades. In part two of her special series, Sarah Cowgill takes us to New Mexico for a meet and greet. In the words of Willie Nelson, we are On The Road Again.
Home to majestic landscapes, world-famous Hatch green chili, and balloon festivals, the state of New Mexico is on the edge of flyover state status—but residents will tell you they are smack dab in the epicenter of a forgotten people. And they might be correct as even their vehicle license plates have added ‘USA’ to remind the country that they are a part of America.
New Mexico has 2 million culturally and racially diverse people, give or take a few souls. Almost half claim Hispanic origins. Caucasian numbers fall into the 40% range, and Native Americans add to the pack with a whopping 9%. Many Hispanic families boast ancestors who lived in the state as early as 1540 when explorer and conquistador (read: Putin style troublemaker), Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, was dispatched to cause a ruckus with the Tiwa tribe, resulting in the Tiguex war. The tribe was dispersed as far away as Kansas as de Coronado planted his flag, so to speak, declaring civilization in the rugged, unforgiving land.
If you ask natives of the state with deep roots, they aren’t fond of the overgeneralization that all Hispanics are illegal. In fact, they’ll yet you know their ancestors were here long before the white, English speaking Europeans immigrated from the original colonies. And they aren’t happy with the illegals crossing the border and diluting the already taxed benefits of the state.
Gracia Montoya, a retired public energy employee born and raised in Farmington, New Mexico, is one of those descendants. Montoya is an educated voter who fits snugly into a conservative mindset. A woman of Hispanic roots with an opinion on building a border wall, she vehemently stated, “We can’t continue to support everyone, yet past administrations continue to dole out our assets. Why can’t our government enforce the immigration laws?” Pertinent question, Ms. Montoya.
Farmington, the jewel of the New Mexico high desert, is nestled in the American West’s majestic San Juan Basin and the Four Corners, and it’s struggling. The area continues to grapple with years of over regulation, the push for alternative energy, and an unfriendly federal government. As the destabilization of the dollar wreaked havoc on most every industry, (except the legal marijuana trades), energy giants Conoco and XTO have been forced to downsize dramatically, displacing over 4,000 workers and scattering families in all directions seeking employment. That’s a big chunk of the workforce when you consider the population of Farmington hovers around 45,000 people.
As the oil and gas industry has taken a mark-leaving hit, all other industries in the San Juan Basin have suffered from the ripple effect. 54-year-old Mike Culver is the owner of Farmington Flooring, a small business that has benefitted from the boom years says he’s now feeling the burn from Obamacare. He has seen his policy premiums skyrocket—well over 75% in the last two years. “I have to pay $1,100 a month, with an $8,000 dollar deductible. That’s $21,000 to spend before my insurance will pay for any health problems I have.” Culver is an avid Trump supporter but continues to hold his breath as gridlock in DC, in his opinion, has stymied any possible recovery. “This Congress and the Democrats are committing crimes against the American people.”
Tucked in the apex of the I-40 corridor, less than an hour south of Albuquerque is the rugged rural community of Stanley. The high desert terrain, peppered with scrub oak and hardy grasses, is home to rattle snakes, coyotes, one random brown bear running amok in the irrigated corn fields, and Brian and Susanne Shanley. As a remote community in which most residents own several firearms, I expected the Second Amendment to dominate the conversation. Instead, the issues that plagued this couple were jobs, over taxation of small businesses, and the push for renewable energies without a reliable, cost effective infrastructure.
“Obama killed the gas and oil boom without any concern for those people who have earned a living on rigs and in the field for decades,” Brian Shanley stated. “We can’t just switch to wind and solar because it’s what Washington preaches is the right thing to do.” New Mexicans have noticed a slight upturn in business since Trump signed the Keystone Pipeline agreement, but for many, it was too little too late and an exodus for greener pastures has placed a bigger burden on those who remain. “The hard drive towards socialism that we barely survived these past eight years, won’t work here, heck, our population is only 2 million,” Susanne Shanley added, “maybe Trump can keep his promises, but, Congress seems determined to stop everything out of spite.”
This state is home to a hardy and positive thinking group of people who live in a stunningly beautiful land of mountains, mesas, and the painted desert – but looks can be deceiving. New Mexico might be the Land of Enchantment, but many blue collar residents aren’t seeing the magic – at least not yet.