Morning Word

State Senate Confirms Indian Affairs Secretary

Santa Fe’s first cat cafe opens today

Senate confirms new Indian Affairs secretary

On a unanimous vote yesterday, the state Senate approved Josett Monette (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians) as the new secretary for the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department. State Sen. Benny Shendo, D-Jemez Pueblo, presents Monette for confirmation right around the 12:12 pm time stamp. Monette’s appointment follows the December departure of Secretary-designate James Mountain, whose appointment Native advocates for murdered and missing Indigenous people strenuously opposed, pointing to a dismissed sexual-assault charge against him. Following the outcry, the governor quietly ended a task force that had been working on the MMIW issue. Mountain, whose nomination the governor never forwarded for confirmation, transitioned at the end of the year to serve Lujan Grisham’s office as a senior advisor for tribal affairs. Monette, the department’s deputy secretary since July, previously served as its general counsel. “Secretary Monette’s extensive background in serving Indigenous people uniquely positions her to address the challenges facing our tribal communities and realize the opportunities,” the governor said in a statement issued yesterday thanking the Senate for its unanimous vote. Monette, a news release says, also is an adjunct professor for the University of New Mexico School of Law National Native American Law Student Association Moot Court Team; recently served as a commissioner for the Pueblo of Tesuque Gaming Commission; and raised three children as a single mother. “I am beyond humbled, honored and appreciative of the governor and the Legislature placing their trust in me,” Monette said in a statement. “I am committed to advancing the priorities of this administration in support of the 23 Nations, Tribes and Pueblos, and all of New Mexico’s Native people and fostering a respectful and productive dialogue between the state and sovereign nations.”

The Senate Indian, Rural and Cultural Affairs Committee is scheduled today to consider a Senate Joint Memorial requesting the state Attorney General’s Office convene a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives Task Force in order to update the previous task force’s 2022 plan and provide ongoing recommendations to the Legislature on how to address New Mexico’s MMIW crisis. Find today’s Senate and House committee schedules here.

Judge sentences teen murderer to 25 years

First Judicial District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer yesterday decreed Judah Trujillo, 17, will serve 25 years in prison for the August 2022 murder of Samuel Cordero, 60, at Ragle Park, where the two had agreed to meet via the Grindr app for a sexual encounter. A jury last year found Trujillo, who was 15 at the time of the killing, guilty of first-degree murder and evidence tampering. During trial, Trujillo testified in his own defense and said he had changed his mind about engaging in sex with Cordero, leading to an altercation, and he had shot the gun over his shoulder as he tried to get away. Physical evidence showed the bullet, however, entered the back of Cordero’s head before exiting through his forehead. During yesterday’s sentencing hearing, Assistant District Attorney Jeanine Salustri argued rap lyrics found on Trujillo’s phone and his booking photo used on someone else’s Soundcloud account point toward the teen’s murder of Cordero occurring “for no good reason at all,” except perhaps for notoriety among his peers. Trujillo denied the assessment. “I know I can’t change what happened that night, but if I could I would,” he said. “I’m sorry about what happened, and I hope you know I mean this from the bottom of my heart. I didn’t go with the intent to take a life, I did not ask for that song to be posted about me, I did not do this for attention, and I’m sorry…I know what I did is wrong.”

City aims to boost immigrant business resources

SFR takes a deep dive into the economic impact businesses run by immigrants make to Santa Fe and New Mexico’s economies, alongside the hurdles such business owners face when trying to access resources. According to SFR’s story, presented in English and Spanish, a study released late last year found immigrants make up 11.1% of the Santa Fe County’s total population, but represent 15.2% of its working age population. On the entrepreneurial side, 1,800 immigrants generated $35.6 million in business income, representing 15.2% of the county’s business owners. The city’s Economic Development department and Somos Un Pueblo Unido plan to use those findings to create a plan to provide immigrant workers with more economic and workforce development opportunities, although the plan is not ready yet. The city will once again be co-sponsoring Feria Southside on Feb. 17, an event that debuted in 2022 geared at highlighting Spanish-speaking entrepreneurship in Santa Fe. Relatedly, the city’s Office of Economic Development will be hosting a few other economic-related meet-ups this week geared at a variety of sectors, including: the Santa Fe Outdoor Recreation Industry Meetup from 8:30 to 11:30 am today at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center; and the monthly Equal Grounds to connect and support LGBTQ+ and allied businesses from 8:30 to 10 am on Wednesday, Feb. 7 at Harry’s Roadhouse. Find details for those and other OED events here.

Feds award NM $16 million for housing, homelessness

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development recently announced more than $3.16 billion in awards through its Continuum of Care program for over 7,000 projects across the country addressing housing and homelessness. New Mexico received just over $16 million, which includes more than $3.5 million for the City of Albuquerque; $953,769 for The Life Link; and $340,617 for Santa Fe Community Housing Trust, among numerous other allocations. “We need to take an all-of-the-above approach to growing our affordable housing stock and providing New Mexicans experiencing homelessness the services they need,” US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, said in a statement from the state’s congressional delegation announcing the funding. “I’m proud to welcome this historic federal investment that takes us one step closer to ensuring every person in New Mexico has a stable and secure place to call home.” The “historic $16 million investment to combat the problem of homelessness for youth in New Mexico,” US Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández said in a statement, “will help make sure service providers have the tools to combat homelessness and push us closer to ending the housing issues that have plagued our state for far too long.”

Listen up

Evan Chandler is an Indianapolis native and a music lover. They joined the SFR staff in July 2023 to cover local government, housing, public safety and the city’s Southside (FYI: Chandler submitted this entry for the 2024 Morning Word Playlist Project weeks before the fifth song below won “Song of the Year” at the 66th Grammys).

1. “Pink Friday Girls” by Nicki Minaj: “I chose this song because I think rappers like Nicki Minaj need to be appreciated while they’re still here, and this samples the classic ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ by Cyndi Lauper.”

2. DIABLO” by Rosalía: “I’ve been listening to Rosalía’s music since 2017, and her albums (all of which are conceptual) are true examples of her incredible artistry. If you get it, you just get it.”

3. Virgo’s Groove” by Beyoncé: “This is truly my favorite song of hers. It makes you want to dance, and the vocal performance is incredible.”

4._BCN626″ by _juno: “This song possesses a certainly ability to put the listener into a trance. It’s soft and haunting in almost a beautiful way. It’s an incredibly artistic look on intimacy.”

5. What Was I Made For” by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell: “I chose this song because of its message—I feel like I can gain a new perspective with each listen just by soaking in the lyrics. It’s almost chilling.”

Santa Fe’s first cat cafe opens today

Carrie Reyes first encountered a cat cafe when she was living in Japan 15 years ago, and the idea morphed into a dream and stuck. But only when she moved to Santa Fe during the COVID-19 pandemic to be near her family did her vision suddenly become feasible. The Turquoise Teapot and Cat Cafe (1221 Flagman Way, B5), where customers can talk, play and pet felines while sipping coffee or tea and eating baked goods, opens today. As with the more than 140 other cat cafes in the US, the cats will be adoptable and, in this case, come from Northern New Mexico second-chance nonprofit Felines & Friends. Reyes, a lifelong animal rescue volunteer, began working with Feline & Friends when she moved here. “The mission is to help barn cats find homes in Santa Fe,” Reyes tells SFR of the new cafe, “but we don’t just need people who are ready to adopt. It’s still helpful if you want to just socialize with the cats to help make them that much more adoptable.” Bottom line: “I think every cat should have a real home,” she says. You can preview some of those cats, in case you want to greet Stellar Eclipse, Rainbow Dash or Pop Tart by name upon entering. Reservations are $8 per visit to support the café's cats. Walk-ins are welcome, but Reyes recommends reservations to ensure a spot. Here’s a little preview of the space, and an extended conversation with Reyes, Felines & Friends Executive Director Bobbie Heller and Española Humane Director of Community Engagement Murad Kirdar on the most recent episode of the Pet Chat radio program.

Nouveau Santa Fe

TravelAge West serves up a guide to Santa Fe, opening the story with a photograph of familiar faces sipping cocktails at La Reina. Santa Fe “has long attracted visitors with its azure skies, dreamy high-desert climate and unique blend of Indigenous, Spanish and Anglo cultures,” the story notes, but while the city “retains all the charm of the past, newness abounds in 2024 in this historic city, from artwork and crafts by young makers committed to sustainability and modern desert-chic lodging and retail experiences to internationally influenced and Indigenous-forward cuisine.” To that end, the story highlights spots such as Betterday, Iconik Lupe, La Mama and Copita, along with James Beard semifinalist Alkeme, SkyFire at Bishop’s Lodge and the bar at Izanami. Among places to stay the night, the story includes El Rey Court, home of the aforementioned bar La Reina, along with The Mystic Santa Fe and its High Desert Bar & Cafe. MarketWatch also notes Santa Fe’s historic features, observing the city in some ways “still feels as remote as it did when it was established 400 years ago.” But don’t be fooled: “This cultural epicenter is filled to the brim with things to do.” The story recommends, however, branching out from town and driving to the Bradbury Science Museum, the Los Alamos History Museum and the Santuario de Chimayo. The story also includes food and drink recommendations (hurrah for OHori’s), as well as ones for book lovers, with shout-outs to Collected Works Bookstore and George RR Martin’s Beastly Books.

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!

The National Weather Service forecasts cloudy skies today, with a high temperature near 52 degrees and northeast wind 10 to 15 mph becoming south in the afternoon. Tonight, Santa Fe has a 60% chance for precipitation, starting with rain segueing into snow, with little if any accumulation expected. Tonight’s weather heralds storms lasting through the rest of the week.

Thanks for reading! Sorry for all the obits of late, but respect must be paid to one of The Word’s favorite writers: RIP Ellen Gilchrist—we will aim to abide the wish expressed in the last line of her obituary.

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