03.04.15Street ViewTuesday, March 3, 2015
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“Santa Fe is one of the most haunted cities and there are more ghosts here per acre than in any other city in the country,” Santa Fe Hauntings’ John Lorenzen tells SFR. “But it’s not like Hollywood movies at all…spirits aren’t really concerned with people and most are pretty friendly.”
A lifelong fan of the paranormal, Lorenzen has led walking tours of the spookier aspects of downtown Santa Fe for the past 15 years and provides ghost-lovers with an inside peek at the spooky and eerie events that have occurred in places such as La Posada, La Fonda, The Palace Restaurant and Saloon, the Palace of the Governors, the Oldest House and more.
“It’s all based on the supernatural buildings that are reportedly haunted—I know they’re haunted,” he says. “For example, one night at The Palace a manager and waitress were closing up at three in the morning and they both very clearly saw the shadow of a 6-foot tall cowboy crossing the foyer, or I was told by a security guard at the Palace of the Governors that they saw an empty dress flying down the hallway one night.”
Lorenzen says that ghosts can be categorized as either intelligent spirits who can speak with the living, revenants who utilize objects to communicate or poltergeists.
“In German it means ‘noisy spirit,’ and they don’t usually show themselves,” he says. “There are also demons, but they’re fairly uncommon; I’d say something like 1 percent of spirits are evil or negative.”
The walking tour lasts about two hours and comes with a coffee or tea drink included to help fight off the parched feeling that comes along with ghost proximity. Lorenzen stresses that wearing comfortable shoes is a must, and children under 5 might not enjoy the subject matter.
“You’ll learn about the history of the city in addition to the ghosts,” Lorenzen adds. “I’m basically a reporter and a storyteller rolled up into one.”
Santa Fe Hauntings
5:30 pm Saturday, March 7. $10-$20
211 Old Santa Fe Trail,
War is hell. And preparing for war is hell. At least, it was in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. In Queen and Country, preparing for war—that is, basic training—is dull, dreary, and an excellent opportunity to make mischief. For that matter, the time after basic training is ripe for shenanigans, too.
Picking up nine years after Hope and Glory leaves off, John Boorman’s latest (and last) film, Queen and Country, carries its predecessors same traits. It’s a comedy set during war, and it’s highly effective considering most great war movies focus on the horrors or the battles or the psychological torture (Saving Private Ryan, Das Boot, The Bridge on the River Kwai). There aren’t as many war comedies, and somehow the worst war comedy ever, Life is Beautiful (and one of the worst movies ever made), walked off with a slew of Academy Awards.
Hope and Glory, on the other hand, is a fine war comedy. Set during the blitz, its protagonist is nine-year-old Bill Rohan, and one of the greatest days of his life is the day his school is demolished by a German bomb. Boorman, who also wrote Hope and Glory, manages to make the London bombings a playground for Bill without disguising the terror that goes along with randomly being attacked in the night.
Now Bill (Callum Turner) is 19 and being shipped off to fight in Korea, but first there’s basic training. Queen and Country, like its predecessor, is sweeter than most war films, and more sentimental. But like Hope and Glory, there’s a gravity to it that eventually rears its head. Though Great Britain had a smaller stake in Korea (and therefore the events of Queen and Country necessarily don’t have the same stakes), there’s still something about being locked away for two years without say in the matter (Bill is conscripted) that makes life unbearable.
So Bill, who doesn’t believe in the Korean War—or in capitalism or communism—sets out to make life as bearable as possible while stuck teaching typing to other conscripts. At least he doesn’t have to go off and fight; that would be quite a different movie.
Bill makes friends with a like-minded scallywag, the delightfully named Percy Hapgood (Caleb Landry Jones), and as non-commissioned officers, they have a sweet set-up; they can make trouble for their overbearing boss, Sgt. Major Bradley (David Thewlis, who disappears into this showy character role), who likes to write them up for offenses such as not having the top button done up on their uniforms.
Along with Redmond (Pat Shortt), a lazy corporal, they make Bradley’s life hell. Until they discover that Bradley suffers from post-traumatic stress. And Percy gets in serious trouble for a prank involving the regimental sergeant major. And Bill falls in love with a woman who suffers from severe depression.
This film is laugh-out-loud funny, but its sadness sneaks up on you. Even the minor wars—if there is such a thing—are ultimately hell. Queen and Country is a fitting end to Boorman’s storied career.
QUEEN AND COUNTRY
Directed by John Boorman
With Turner, Jones and Shortt
You’d be doing yourself a disservice if you skipped out on What We Do in the Shadows if you’re skeptical of vampire films or fake documentaries. What We Do in the Shadows is both, but it transcends the tired tropes of mocks and bloodsuckers and turns into an uproarious movie about petty grievances—when those with the grievances happen to be hundreds of years old and survive on human blood.
Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), Viago (Taika Waititi), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), and Petyr (Ben Fransham) are a group of vampires living in a house in Wellington, New Zealand, barely tolerating each other, and waiting for a large gathering of other vampires that takes place each year. Bored one night and looking for fun (and food), the guys turn Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) into a vampire.
But Nick is kind of an idiot and the guys hate him. However, they love Nick’s human friend Stu (Stuart Rutherford), so they don’t kill Nick in order to hang out with Stu, who’s friendly and shows them how to use the Internet (excepting Nick, the vampires are all at least 150 years old).
That ain’t the half of it. There’s also a spurting jugular or two, lots of dirty dishes, bat fights, vampire hunters, werewolves (who, whenever they use bad language, admonish each other by saying “we’re not swearwolves”), and true love. Hilarious. See it.
WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS
Directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi
With Clement, Waititi and Brugh
LAND COMMISSIONER MOVES ART FOR PUMP JACK
Fear no oil.
SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT DECIDES TO STAY
“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”
TV ANCHOR BACK AT WORK AFTER SPAT
We’re not sure why another angry white guy gets so many headlines.
LOOSE LLAMAS GO VIRAL
Because TV news really does matter.
CITY CLEANS MORE GRAFFITI THIS YEAR THAN LAST
Maybe that new pump jack will get another coat of paint next.
ARIZONA HEALTH PROVIDERS TELL NM TO PAY UP
Get in line—right behind the minimum-wage workers.
EX-GOV. GARY JOHNSON FAKES HEART ATTACK IN POT DEBATE
He’s running for president again. Also a funny joke.
On the fall equinox, at the tail end of monsoon season two years ago, dense, dark clouds rumbled into a quadrant of Northern New Mexico’s pale blue sky. Above the two- and three-story ruins at Chaco Culture National Historical Park, the skies were still bright. But the clouds, followed by virga and then by rain, meant the long drive out—14 of the 20 miles back to the highway are unpaved—would be a tricky one.
Until then, we would watch the sky. And walk among the remains of the people who dwelled here in the San Juan Basin during ancient times. Between AD 850 and 1250, thousands lived in Chaco Canyon. They built deep, round kivas underground and monumentally tall structures, with sandstone pieces so elaborately chinked and fitted together that mud mortar has kept them standing for centuries.
In his book Anasazi America, University of New Mexico archaeologist David Stuart writes of how the Chacoan people inhabited 40,000 square miles of the Four Corners region. He explains that the “vast and powerful alliance” between the 10,000 to 20,000 small farming villages and almost 100 district towns or “great houses” was reinforced by economic and religious ties. Hundreds of miles of well-worn ancient pathways, as wide as roads, are still visible from the sky.
The people who lived here also celebrated and mourned. Fell in love, argued with one another and stared up at the stars at night. Their feet touched the warm sandstone. They drew water from a running river and watched sticks burn to coals in their cooking fires.
Like now, there were good days and bad days—until the drought of 1090, when the bad days began outnumbering the good. According to archaeologists, during the second century, children under 5 comprised between a quarter and a half of all burials. The farming districts around Chaco—which supplied the great houses and also had the highest child mortality rates—began faltering. By the late 1000s, writes Stuart, firewood, clean water, game and wild plant food had all become scarce.
It had taken the pre-Puebloan people more than 700 years to “lay the agricultural, organizational, and technological groundwork” that created the Chacoan culture, writes Stuart. The classic period, meanwhile, lasted only 200 years—and collapsed “spectacularly” within 40.
Before leaving, we walked along a trail near the base of a tall sandstone cliff. Near the ruin of Pueblo Bonita, the iconic structure that most people snap pictures of when visiting the park, seven or eight birds delighted in the waves of air from the stormy sky. They would dive from the top of the cliff, twirl around one another, and pull up just above the ground. They were turkey vultures, the vee of their wings distinct against the sky. I’d never seen those big, serious birds act that way. As we continued walking toward the great house, we stepped into their game. They flew so close above us we could hear the air through the feathers of their wings. Carrion eaters, the vultures are good reminders of mortality.
The clouds darkened the remainder of the sky. And the turkey vultures retired to a cottonwood in the wash nearby. We left and made it home, grateful for the rain that blessed our own hard drought.
But the same thing that delivered us to the canyon—my gasoline-powered pickup truck whose four-wheel drive also got us out that day—contributes to the destruction of cultural artifacts and threatens the future of the people who still live in small, tight-knit communities throughout the San Juan Basin in northwestern New Mexico.
Today, there are 22,000 natural gas wells in the region, some dating back to the mid-20th century. And as companies have sought to glean oil from the tightly packed Mancos Shale thousands of feet below Earth’s surface, the federal government has started approving oil wells, too. If you’ve taken NM 550 in the past few months and driven north of Cuba, you’ve seen the trucks and rigs, the newer wells flaring 30- or 50-foot flames into the air.
There’s no doubt that the park is worth protecting from the press of oil and natural gas wells; Chaco Culture National Historical Park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And as a former archaeologist, I appreciate the connections between the past and the present and how we can learn from the past to better plan for the future.
But it says something about our culture today—right here in New Mexico, at this moment—that it’s so much easier for people to connect with stone and story than with flesh and blood.
"It’s so much easier for people to connect with stone and story than with flesh and blood."
Just about a year after that stormy equinox, I join a handful of reporters and then-Councilman Mark Martinez, of the Pueblo of Zuni, to fly above Chaco Canyon in a six-seater Cessna 210.
On a clear October morning, we take off from the Farmington airport, flying over the San Juan River and the Navajo Nation’s thousands of acres of irrigated lands. In the distance, I can see Shiprock and also the lumpy heft and steaming towers of a coal-fired power plant. Banking away from the city, we headed south. Bruce Gordon, the pilot and executive director of ecoFlight, points out the remains of ancient roads and buildings.
When I’m driving through the San Juan Basin, the desert scrub seems to stretch into nothingness. From the air, I see hogans and trailers at the ends of long, straight roads. Or round corrals adjacent to a few venerated green cottonwoods surrounded by brown.
The washes and arroyos that rarely merit a second glance from ground level are from the sky squiggly and magnificent. The badlands are rust and orange, white, gray and black.
Then we spot the well pads and tanks, the natural gas drilling rigs and waste ponds. From above, it looks as though someone’s fired a giant paintball gun. Globs of industrial development are strung together with roads like cobwebs.
I’m almost embarrassed to recall all the times I’ve driven out to Chaco, using the trip as an escape from cell phones and computers, the city’s noise and the dull demands of 21st century life. Meanwhile, it’s that development all across the basin that makes my modern life convenient and leisurely.
That long (sometimes mucky) road into the park does indeed preserve that feel of returning to earlier times. Out at Chaco, it’s quiet. And at night, it’s very dark. The driving loop within the park is paved. But just walk away from the road, stare at the sky and the ruins, and you will feel entirely alone.
From the air, I realize what a fantasy that is. For centuries, this landscape has yielded what people needed. Once it was corn and beans, clean water, sandstone and timber. Then came the drought. There were wars and conquests. And in the past half-century, while the San Juan River irrigates thousands of desert acres, we’ve also forced the land to surrender coal and uranium, oil and gas.
My forehead pressed against the glass of the Cessna, I wonder how long it will last this time.
After landing back in Farmington, Martinez talks about what the flight meant to him. People at Zuni, particularly the religious people, are worried about development approaching the ruins. He’d been told that another 1,500 oil wells could be drilled in the basin within the next 15 to 20 years.
Chaco is sacred to not just his Zuni people but to many Native cultures, he says.
For Native people, the land isn’t an escape. It’s a return.
“We call that our spiritual place and (it’s) part of our umbilical cord to our migration route. So that’s very important to us, and we’ve never left those homelands. They’re part of our spirits,” he says, standing on the tarmac. “Our ancestors still live upon the lands. Every time we visit, we do offerings to greet them. Even though we don’t see them, they’re still in existence.”
When non-Native people visit the park, he imagines them wondering about the people who lived there. They seem to miss the people who still live here, their far descendants—the ones who really feel forgotten.
Since that flight last fall, the US Bureau of Land Management has temporarily deferred approval on oil leases close to the park’s boundary. Activists celebrated. But of course, political whim could reopen the process.
And the Chacoan landscape isn’t only about the park.
“It’s also about the larger landscape,” says Samantha Ruscavage-Barz, who had a 17-year career as an archaeologist in New Mexico and Arizona. Now she’s an attorney for WildEarth Guardians. She explains that the 53-square-mile area currently within the park’s boundaries was the center of a larger community extending as far north as Mesa Verde in Colorado and to the south of Interstate 40. All of those sites together, she says, tell a story.
Allowing development up to the boundaries of the park creates something “almost like a little playground,” she says. “You don’t get that sense that there was a living community occupying that landscape and the descendants of the community are still there.”
Today, that living community includes the Diné, or Navajo people, who have homes on the reservation and on allotments, private lands deeded to individual families in the 19th century.
In mid-December, Lori Goodman arrives outside the Counselor Chapter House on the Navajo Nation. A handful of people, mostly women, stand in the dirt lot, soaking in the New Mexico sun on a day that probably should have been a dozen degrees colder.
“Quite a sight, huh?” asks Goodman, who volunteers with the nonprofit organization Diné CARE—or Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment.
She’s talking about the oil rigs we had all passed to get here. In this area, the BLM has approved about 100 new oil wells, some of which popped up alongside the unpaved roads that run through Counselor and south of the highway toward Ojo Encino.
Later we drive deeper into the reservation and then climb atop a pine-covered hill to look out at the landscape. A small ranch, marked by a windmill and a few barking dogs, spreads out beneath us. The air is warm and smells like sage or pine, depending on which direction the wind is blowing.
From behind the mesa that flanks the ranch, we spot a flame. Then another farther to the right. Below us is a well pad with big green storage tanks. Turning again, we see another flare.
Here, on the eastern edge of the Navajo Nation, there are about 900,000 acres of allotments—and this is where most of the current oil drilling and proposed leasing is occurring. For a one-time payment, sometimes as much as $100,000, hundreds of individual families have signed agreements with drilling companies. Yet with the money come lasting effects.
“People that we’ve been meeting with, they’re telling us how this intense development has really interfered with their lives and livelihood,” says Goodman as we walk back down the hill. “Numerous roads have been built, just in this rush to get the oil out. And so regular roads that were just to people’s homes are now truck roads. The amount of traffic going by—it’s scary. We were driving in a small car, and these huge semi trucks were passing us, and we kept pulling off the road because we’re little and they’re huge.”
Even though I’m just a reporter covering this issue from the outside, a lot of it feels like familiar ground.
And so, a confession is necessary: What’s been happening, as Chaco Canyon has become a rallying point to stave off new oil development, awakens in me the deep discomfort I felt as a young archaeologist on my first field project in New Mexico.
From our motel in Gallup, our crew would drive about 45 minutes to where we were excavating sites alongside a road that was being widened. On that drive, sleepy each morning and sunburned each evening, we’d pass thin-walled trailers, rez dogs dead or dying on the edge of the road and worn-looking men stumbling along the way.
In retrospect at least, most of my time working on field projects was stunning. We’d spend weeks and months getting to know not just the archaeology of the project area but also the plants and weather patterns. That work electrified me physically, intellectually and emotionally.
Yet, I’d often feel uneasy at the end of the day.
Contracted by governmental agencies mandated to comply with federal laws like the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Historic Preservation Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, we contract archaeologists—also called consultants—worked in tandem with developers to ensure dams and pipelines, highway projects and cell phone towers were completed.
As I learned more about the federal laws, spent more time on the ground and met people whose families have lived here for centuries, I wondered: As a society, why do we seek knowledge of those who died centuries ago while failing to listen to those who are still living?
There are a lot of answers to that question: It’s critically important to learn about the past. The dead deserve more than to have their bones crushed beneath bulldozers. Knowledge of the past helps us understand who we all are today and what we might do to survive tomorrow.
But there’s another answer that’s harder to admit: The dead are easier to objectify and manipulate.
Consider this like a long-distance relationship. It’s easier to adore—even defend—someone from afar, building the entire narrative yourself by stitching together finite moments, of passion or joy, without having to live with the hurts and injustices, annoyances and abuses of reality.
During the second century, when the rains and snows stopped arriving with regularity in the Four Corners, I imagine that people felt some combination of hope and helplessness. Hope that next season would be better, that the stores of food could be renewed again after this one tough year. Hope that gods would answer prayers. Then helplessness as more children died. As water became scarce and wild game disappeared. As crops failed to survive the dry summer and the walk for firewood became too long.
Today, most Americans have at least a cursory understanding that the greenhouse gases—including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases—we release into the air when burning fossil fuels are changing the planet’s climate.
Many also understand that those changes are increasing global surface temperatures, melting polar ice and causing sea levels to rise. Despite that knowledge and the technologies we’ve developed, we still hover between hope and helplessness.
Yet, I hear the same mantra again and again, from farmers, water managers and neighbors: Let’s hope that next year’s snowpack will be better and that when it melts, reservoir levels will rise again. Let’s hope that this year’s monsoon season will bring enough rain to sustain the season’s crops. Let’s hope things get better.
Less publicly, people will admit feeling helpless: How do we stop the entire planet from going to hell?
Sometimes, we comfort ourselves with small actions: clicking “like” on the Facebook post of an outraged friend, ignoring the fact that our phones and computers are charged with electricity from a coal-fired power plant; driving to a public meeting to proclaim our opposition to fracking, while stopping to buy a tank of gasoline on the way; casting corporations and oil field workers as the enemies—the angry villains who have inflicted this travesty of energy development and subsequent climate change upon us—while feeling helpless to change the habits that are condemning us to hopelessness.
Towns like Farmington and Aztec, or even Lybrook and Counselor, aren’t cleverly planned and marketed, the way charming and historic Santa Fe is. But if there’s a place in New Mexico to confront the lessons of the past and consider the course of the future, it’s the Four Corners.
Our addiction to fossil fuels is most obvious here in the southwest, says Mike Eisenfeld, energy coordinator for the nonprofit San Juan Citizens Alliance. In addition to the tens of thousands of wells, the region has coal mines and coal-fired power plants. And whether it’s from coal, oil and gas or uranium development, the air and water pollution in the San Juan Basin serve as proof, he says, of “our continued inability to think about ways to create electricity other than from burning stuff.”
It’s a shame, he says, that the Four Corners is considered a sacrifice zone—a place where America’s pursuit of energy independence always comes home.
“My experience here is this is a tremendous living community, full of history and vitality, and it’s just a shame that some of these monikers have stuck,” he says. “The current president’s ‘all of everything’ energy policy is not well-thought-out at all—because the areas that have been impacted for years and years by oil and gas and coal and uranium and other schemes and shenanigans are going to just be constantly hit with the idea that we need to be relied on for more and more and more.”
Despite the changing climate and the energy challenges, humans keep plugging away, doing things the same way we always did. And even when we do create new technologies that increase energy efficiency or draw power from renewable resources, we don’t apply them rapidly or often enough.
Eisenfeld mentions how the oil wells near Lybrook on the eastern Navajo Nation are flaring off nitrogen and natural gas: “It seems so wasteful and so poorly conceived and heartbreaking that as a society, we’re willing to squander things that have environmental problems and economic value,” he says. “I don’t think, until you live in a community like this—where there are well pads in every park and well pads in your communities and well pads next to your schools, and compressor stations and processing and central delivery points.
“I think in my mind, I thought that like natural gas just came out of the ground clean and wasn’t really that big of a deal. My opinion has changed a lot.”
It’s frustrating, he says, to not know what to do about the way humans have fundamentally altered our natural systems. He’s not just talking about the landscape of an ancient civilization pocked with wells and mines. He’s referring to the hand New Mexicans have in altering the entire planet’s climate.
Last year, NASA revealed that a giant plume of methane, a greenhouse gas, is seeping from the Four Corners region. The data, from 2003-2009, showed that coalbed methane seams and oil and gas infrastructure in the area have created the largest “methane hot spot” in the United States.
When our fall comes—as the Southwest continues to warm, surface water supplies decline and the evidence of our actions is visible even from space—we won’t leave behind remains as beautiful as those at Chaco. We’ll leave behind seeping gases and rusting pump jacks, poisoned wells and crackling pavement.
A few months after talking in Farmington, Eisenfeld drives the back roads around Counselor, trying to grasp the scale of the new oil development. I follow behind him as he rushes to see one more well pad, one more rig, before darkness descends completely.
After sunset, we park at a cleared, flat spot. It seems like an old natural gas well pad, but I can’t quite make out the infrastructure in the darkness. He’s stopped here to watch the flare from an oil well. It’s about a quarter-mile away, but we’re talking loud over its roar.
Then, without warning, Eisenfeld hops back in his truck and takes off again.
As he pulls away, a great horned owl sweeps up, landing on a pole atop an elevated metal tank.
My heart’s still thumping from the surprise of the bird’s giant wings. I want to watch this owl forever. Or as long as my eyes can see through the dark. But I need to get moving. I don’t know the route back to the highway.
As his taillights disappear down the gravel road and around a corner, I remember what he’d said to me a few months earlier. I remember his urgency.
“I’m 52, and I’m kind of going, ‘All right, what’s going to happen in my lifetime? And what kind of planet are we leaving our kids?’”
It’s going, going, but not quite gone. While many public schools have dropped cursive as a required subject from curriculums due to society’s shift to computers and technology, it’s not as obsolete as some might think.
Most people associate longhand with the dying art of letter writing, but there still exist practical uses for it, such as for college-bound high school students taking the PSAT and SAT tests. The standardized tests, required for entry by most colleges, include a statement that students must complete in cursive.
“When I took the SAT, I hadn’t really practiced cursive since the 4th grade, so it took me a while to remember how to do some of the letters,” recalls Elizabeth Anderson, a student at Santa Fe University of Art and Design.
Although it’s not required teaching for local public schools, Santa Fe Public Schools Response to Intervention coordinator Trina Raper says that the district’s not anti-cursive.
“There’s all kinds of writing happening in classrooms, but we’ve never said ‘don’t teach cursive’,” says Raper. “Teachers can run out of time for all sorts of things while trying to manage a classroom.”
"We can’t get much closer to the heart than true handwriting."
With full classrooms and a large range of subjects to teach, educators sometimes can’t find time to squeeze in cursive, she says. Teachers are encouraged to vary style of teaching by student, meaning that if a student struggles with basic handwriting, that student should be coached in how to properly hold a pencil and write cleanly.
“It’s not an either/or district mandate,” she says. “It’s about giving each student what they need.”
While many school administrators and teachers have pushed cursive to the wayside to make room for mandatory subjects and testing, there are still those who believe in and support the written word.
“It’s the last form of personalized communication,” argues Neal S Frank, owner of Santa Fe Pens in downtown Sanbusco Market Center.
With passion and self-interest, Frank is teaming up with local calligraphy and cursive teacher Sherry Bishop to revive the art of good penmanship.
“It is self-expression,” agrees Bishop, who teaches at one of the few local schools that still requires learning cursive, the Santa Fe Waldorf School. “We can’t get much closer to the heart than true handwriting.”
For Frank and Bishop, cursive is about more than good penmanship.
“There’s been a couple of studies that show learning cursive triggers the brain on how to learn,” says Frank, adding that “there may be a correlation between not learning cursive and the fact that we [the US] are falling behind the rest of the world.”
Bishop adds that practicing cursive and handwriting improves fine motor skills and head-heart-hands coordination.
“It’s this beautiful mediation, and there’s this rhythm that gets the body in sync,” she says. “It’s just me and the person I’m sending the letter to–it’s just this beautiful, private conversation.”
To spread the word and offer interested parties a chance to learn, Santa Fe Pens is hosting its 20th annual Pen Fair on Saturday and Sunday, where adults and children older than eight can take free handwriting and cursive seminars taught by Bishop.
Attendees will also get to test-write with specialty pens worth up to $10,000, and see new novelty Santa Fe edition fountain and roller-ball pens.
Frank uses the Constitution of the United States as an example of the importance of being able to at least read cursive.
“Our entire written history is written in cursive,” says Frank. “If you can’t write it, you can’t read it.”
In the past, the pen fair included seminars only for children, but due to popular demand, an adult workshop was added last year.
Bishop hopes that people learn and value handwriting not only for the educational benefits, but the emotional and personal ones too.
“It’s one of the kindest gifts we can give another person,” she says. “It’s our own expression.”
SANTA FE PEN FAIR
10 am to 6 pm, Saturday, March 7; noon to 5 pm, Sunday, March 8
Sanbusco Market Center
500 Montezuma Ave.,
Janet Jarrett’s family has a history with hemp.
In his younger days, her father raised the plant and used its fiber for rope on the farm. Now 94, his daughter says he still doesn’t forgive the government for making growing hemp illegal.
“He can’t get good hemp ropes anymore. He always liked to rope with them better, and the plastic ones are too stiff,” says Jarrett, a dairy farmer in Valencia County.
New Mexico might be changing that law soon, as least incrementally. So far, the hemp issue seems to be cruising through the legislative session.
“What’s old is new again,” Jarrett says. “I think there’s a real opportunity to maybe reestablish some of the things in a less hysterical way.”
A bill that would allow the state to grow hemp for research purposes recently jumped through three Senate committees with little opposition before passing the upper chamber by a 33-8 vote.
Though similar bills have failed the legislature in over the past 15 years, this time lawmakers have something they’ve never had before—cover from the feds.
“There seems to be a whole change in the attitude and people are embracing it,” says Jaime Chavez, a field organizer for the National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association.
Like its psychoactive counterpart, marijuana, hemp is a distinct species of cannabis. It can be used to create products as diverse as paper, oil and biofuels.
But unlike marijuana, hemp can’t get you high—a fact that state Rep. Donna Irwin, D-Doña Ana, recently admitted that she couldn’t get through her head for the longest time. Still, the plant’s association with pot has kept it a controlled substance under federal law for nearly eight decades.
Last year, US Congress adopted the 2013 Farm Bill, which allows states to pass their own laws to grow and cultivate hemp, as long as it’s tied to research and development and overseen by either a university or a state agriculture department. Nineteen states have since written their own hemp laws, and a core group of activists are lobbying to add New Mexico to that list.
The biggest argument is an economic one, especially for a state still struggling to recover from the Great Recession.
“Right now hemp is a half-a-billion-dollar industry that we’re losing out on,” said state Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Bernalillo, sponsor of the bill, during debate.
A companion bill in the state House of Representatives currently sits before the Agriculture, Water and Wildlife Committee. State Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Chaves, who chairs that committee, tells SFR that hemp’s possibilities “seem limitless” for farmers and ranchers. But she is awaiting input from the state agriculture department, which is housed at New Mexico State University, on the bill that passed the Senate.
Ezzell, herself a rancher, says she wants to make sure the bill has the department’s green light before she holds a hearing in her committee so that “the public has every assurance that what farmers are growing is not pot.”
Regardless, local farmers and ranchers are anxious to grow the plant as a crop. Jerry Fuentes, who grows squash, corn and horse feed in his residence in Truchas, says he’d like to get try hemp if the state allows it.
Fuentes says he wants to grow the plant for pharmaceutical and nutritional purposes. Hemp is the basis for many different kinds of commodities, from oil for food to fiber for car dashboards.
“There’s different strains,” Fuentes says. “Different strains for different altitudes and different climates.”
Hemp requires less water to grow than crops like alfalfa or wheat, making it all the more attractive to farmers in the drought-laden American West, according to Lorette Picciano, executive director of Rural Coalition, a nationwide coalition group of farmers and migrant workers across the country. But her biggest argument is hemp’s history as a traditional yield.
“The farmers believe it’s a good crop for them,” Picciano says.
The bill would restrict hemp cultivation for research and development tied to NMSU, which would eventually administer permits for farmers who want to grow hemp.
Establishing the rules for that permitting process could take time. Jarrett says even a fast-tracked rulemaking process would take at least six months. That, coupled with the fact that irrigation season has already started for her, means farmers won’t realistically be able to grow hemp until next year if the bill passes this session.
The Santa Fe company Bio Design Labs is already working with farmers on hemp cultivation in Antonito, Colorado, just north of Taos. Organizer Joe Rael says if New Mexico approves the measure, his company will assist farmers in developing the best methodologies to grow hemp here.
But even though Colorado passed its own hemp legislation last year, that doesn’t mean it’s been smooth sailing for farmers looking to get into the business. Alfonzo Abeyta, who grows alfalfa and grain on his farm near Antonito, was planning to plant 130 acres of hemp last year. He ordered 400 pounds of hemp seed from Europe, but says the DEA seized it in San Diego on its way to Colorado.
“We waited and waited and waited for them to release the seed,” Abeyta says.
That never happened, and instead Abeyta grew cattle feed. He says he’ll try again this spring. But he’s still technically limited from selling hemp as a crop for commercial use, though both Colorado and Kentucky are interpreting the current federal law in broad terms.
One measure before Congress would completely remove hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and allow farmers in any state to grow it. The bill is backed by both Democrats and prominent Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul, both of Kentucky.
Even if that legislation doesn’t pass, McSorely argues that his bill will allow research for hemp’s future commercial use.
The big question is: What will the governor do? Staff for Gov. Susana Martinez are tightlipped about where she stands on the issue. Spokesman Michael Lonergan says the office has “not yet reviewed this legislation.”
Most of us were introduced to tequila shots in our college years, leaving us reeling from its fast track to pounding hangovers and bad decisions. Meanwhile, mezcal had a bad reputation as a rough spirit with a worm in the bottle. However, today’s connoisseurs know that the agave spirits category is one of the most historic and complex, and its popularity is rising, worldwide.
The Aztec fertility doddess Mayahuel is the matron of the mystical Maguey plant, also known as the Agave. Ancient people rubbed its milky sap on babies’ lips for nourishment, and they also fermented it into pulque, drunk in religious ceremonies. Nowadays, mezcal is the term for all agave spirits comprised of
tequila, sotol, bacanora and their cousin, raicilla.
Mezcal often has a smoky flavor because the agaves are roasted in a traditional fire pit rather than baked in an oven. Made from wild-growing plants, ezcal is also appealing because it’s gluten-free and naturally organic. And, while this spirits category and its international laws are still developing, connoisseurs are vigorously exploring and embracing the range of citrusy, smoky, floral elixirs, starting with the most popular mezcal, tequila:
Real tequila is made 100 percent from the blue agave plant, and only in five regions in Mexico: Jalisco, Nayarit, Michoacán, Guanajuato, Tamaulipas.
The agave plant is not a cactus but rather a succulent, which looks similar to a giant aloe, with a stalk rising six feet from its core.
Agaves typically take 8-12 years to mature.
At harvest, the plant’s “arms” are hacked off, the stalk removed, and the heart (or piña) cooked until soft, then pressed for juice, which is fermented, distilled, aged and bottled.
Tequila, typically, is not smoky because it is baked in an oven.
Blanco: the tequila has been in-barrel for less than two months (if at all).
Reposado: means rested for up to 364 days in wooden barrels, slight amber color.
Añejo: means aged one to three years, deep amber color.
Extra Añejo: open-ended, long-term aging.
More Agave Love:
Bacanora hails from the state of Sonora and made from agave angustifolia. Typically, its piña is roasted in an earthen pit resulting in a slightly smoky flavor, as well as hints of pear, apple and green herbs.
Raicilla is quickly rising in popularity among mixology nerds and bartenders. One of the oldest forms of mezcal, it’s made from various types of wild agave, often fire-roasted with smoky, dusty, tropical fruit, and vegetal tones.
Sotol is made from the desert spoon plant, which grows in higher elevations of Chihuahua. Sotol can have hints of baked tropical fruit, peppercorns and sometimes a whisper of smoke. The desert spoon is not technically an agave plant, but related to it, and people in Mexico drink it as they would any other agave spirit.
Fun fact: Award-winning Del Maguey Mezcal is owned by Ron Cooper, a world-famous artist and Taos resident.
Are you ready to take the plunge? Share your tequila stories—good or bad—on the comments section of this article.