Stills of broken bottles littering black-and-white streets accompanied by the beats of a rap soundtrack: This is Joe Romero and Luis Loya’s current vision. Both seniors at the charter school Academy for Technology and Classics, they are working among youth statewide to produce a video for lawmakers about how the high concentration of businesses that sell alcohol in their cities affects them.
“I would want the audience to see how the youth is around alcohol and how it doesn't create the environment that they should be growing up in,” says Loya, who’s been involved with a program that organized the project, the Santa Fe Student Wellness Action Team, for about three years.
Spearheaded by SWAT and the Santa Fe Prevention Alliance, the video will feature student work from
seven of New Mexico’s highest alcohol outlet density areas—including Santa Fe,
Carlsbad, Española, Grants and Gallup. With a plan for completion by early summer, stories, interviews and art will combine to show each city's situation from the youth perspective.
“I found it refreshing to see other communities, not just Santa Fe, working on it too,” Romero says. “Even in those areas, there's kids that still care and, like, people who want to help out in the community too.”
Coordinator Phil Lucero says he hopes the seven-minute video will sway city
council members and legislators at the Roundhouse to put better limits on
alcohol establishments near schools and neighborhoods where youth are.
“Unfortunately, New Mexico suffers from some of the worst statistics to alcohol and alcohol-related problems,” Lucero says, noting the state ranks 50th in the country for alcohol-related deaths. “That was kind of the conversation starter. Why New Mexico? What is it about our culture that we will look the other way when it’s so blatant the way that alcohol companies are trying to, you know, ingrain this in our culture.”
In Santa Fe, the number of commercial liquor licenses held is more than double than what is typically
allowed by law, according to the Prevention Alliance.
Many of these establishments are on Airport Road, where the majority of youth in the city live—including Loya and Romero.
“We’ve seen a lot of alcohol outlets in the, like, the richer part of Santa Fe, which is downtown, which is where all the tourists go. We’ve also seen a lot of alcohol outlets on the poorer side of town…and if you go down Rodeo Road or Alameda, you probably see one alcohol store,” Loya says. “We kind of want to show how society’s classes [affect how alcohol outlets are distributed and] how are alcohol outlets targeting those areas...trying to target the youth.”
More places to buy alcohol leads to higher underage drinking rates, Lucero explains. He says 41 percent of Santa Fe's high schoolers admit to have had alcohol in the past 30 days, uncharacteristically high compared to the rest of the country, but typical for New Mexico.
“The biggest impact is that it’s kind of become part of the community,” Lucero says. “Kids are growing up and passing by these [convenience stores and gas station] doors with alcohol [advertisements] all over them, and it’s just kind of normalizing the use of alcohol and normalizing that it’s OK to advertise like that.”