What Defines New Mexico? (Trigger Warning)

This post is going to make the New Mexico Tourism Board cry. As Nymph runs off after startling me because she jumped up into my lap and I laugh, my brain still turns and mulls over what created me as I am. As a person born in New Mexico, a person that has never left this dusty state except to go over the border into Mexico for a mile (it all looked the same, I got lost and it doesn’t count if I don’t know I left the country on purpose) I have a perspective on New Mexico that can be broken down as follows..

1. Education
2. Poverty
3 Religion
4. Healthcare

These four things combine to make New Mexico an unpleasant place to live. I hear so often how nice it is to visit my state, how beautiful it is, and how neat it is that all of the natives sell their homemade crafts at the various squares for thousands of dollars. That’s the tourism factor. New Mexico has great places to visit, places I enjoy. I love so much of the history and lore here. I revel in reading about Billy the Kid, in knowing that I have been in places that this young man had.

New Mexico has yet to stop being the wild west. The same mentality that created the gun fighter out of the ex soldier (That would be the James Gang lead by Jesse and his brother) on through the modern gangster there is an element of hopelessness in this state. It may have been here before the Civil War, but New Mexico is not a place that is nice to live.

When you are a tourist it is easy to avoid the areas where people actually live and work outside of the glossy tourist shops. It is easy to see the big expansive sky, the glorious mountains, and even our gun fighter reenactments that happen every weekend in Old Town. It is easy to be sucked up by the dust and the wind, to feel for a moment you are somewhere else. Tourists are guided to specific areas JUST for this effect. Every city and place does this so that their dirty laundry is not aired.

New Mexico is not accessible for wheelchair users. When you visit in a chair you will find that downtown has great curbcuts and… that is it. A small section of the sidewalk is accessible, if you leave the Tourist Safe Zone you will be stuck. Even there you will be treated like garbage by the mindless peons of this state. They are educated to hate you, tourist, regardless of disability or no.

New Mexico has a long history of religious intolerance. This started back when Cortez rode through and spread disease looking for Eldorado. When you come and look at our history reveling in the ruins of churches, you are reveling in the murders of people. With that conquest came racism. The people of this state who claim they are Mexican are actually descendants of the first European rape marriages of the native daughters. This was done not out of love, no one married out of love before the Victorian period, but out of power. If you take their wives and daughters, you exterminate them. The devout Catholics could be practicing a variety of earth based religions, but most of their culture was beaten away or burned away. The chiefs and medicine men were killed over and over again. The image we have of the indigenous people also known as Indians, Native Americans, or first nations, this image is a construct by the first conquerors. This image is what tourists come to see.

Through the school system that we have currently, the children are taught to worship the conqueror. Those that can read will read books that talk about how impressive it was that these men brought horses, guns, and that yes a few of the First Nations died because of disease but Cortez didn’t really mean it, so that makes it okay. It was just an accident. The germs may have been accidental but pretending to be a deity was not. That was a conscious choice. Turning on the people that embraced these European WHITE men because of their difference? That was an act of hatred.

When you come to New Mexico as a tourist and are frustrated with your potentially not white counter clerk’s inability to count out your change properly or their not really smiling or enjoying their menial labour? You are feeding off of a centuries old hate crime. New Mexicans of color (Hispanics, Blacks, First Nations, etc) are given a poorer education. There are schools for the white children such as Saint Prius where if you can pay for the education or are smart enough you get in. in the Cities the education is better, but with a state that is made up of rural regions most of the people who come to the city as adults are not well educated or are from out of state taking advantage of the economic opportunity presented to them by the lack of local applicants that are qualified to do this job.

In the rural areas, especially Estancia (The worst school district in a state that is chronically the worst in the nation educationally) the teachers are often not certified. I haven’t checked since I escaped that school, but since a lot of the same teachers are there as when I went? You can BET that the teachers are either not caring, not qualified, or are the exception to the rule. There are a few of them and these people can make a difference in the education of a few students, but the majority in that area never learn to read, the focus is just on sports (though despite Brian Urlacker who is from Albuquerque not Estancia, this has never quite worked out for any of them). No one who leaves this small town returns. I did for a few months and that was under the guise of visiting and I got out again. The town is stagnant. The people never change. A few may come from outside, like my mother, but their children enter a society that is backwards. Anyone who was not born there is not accepted.

The culture here socially is also one of teen pregnancy. Abstinence only education as well as the idea that a penis will give you Aids (Not a lie but not a truth in how it is taught) lead many young women to being mothers. In Estancia every single girl in my graduating class was pregnant when I was 17 except for myself. Every single student is encouraged by the social culture to be sexually active. In a state wide experience as I have lived all over, I can tell you that girls are encouraged to become housewives and mothers. I suspect some of this is a national occurrence (This is according to an annual survey, the details of which have not changed enough to matter int he last few years. If anything the rate has increased). The system is set up so that it is almost impossible to become independent from these systems. With Welfare you are to hungry and tired from trying to work with your parents to learn. Every family dependent on Welfare that I know of is actually working to escape the need for assistance but with the set up that if you earn you lose the needed income so you can keep earning and eat, therefore it becomes a matter of starve or get off of welfare.

No one chooses poverty. No one chooses hunger. The image of the Welfare Queen of New Mexico interchanges one stereotype for another, and yet the one exception I know of to this rule is not a person of color but is a white person that feels entitled to not work. Parents with children struggle to better their education but this takes resources that we do not have. Each year education is cut, and each year it is the children who lose out. There are several remedial colleges in the area that help you learn the basics from elementary on through High school so you can get a degree, but this costs money and time. Not everyone has the time or money and many people here cannot qualify for federal aide because they do not have the knowledge to fill out the application.

This sends the locals flooding back to their churches. This state is stunted in many ways, and is so dependent on guidance from privileged white men or men who have fallen into the line of the Patriarchy and this leads to actions such as murder based on appearance, ability, sexuality and gender. This leads to people who may be declared a witch to actually be burned at the stake. Religion is used to prevent thought. When I was excommunicated from the Church, it was for asking questions to try and understand what I am being fed. This action is against the church and without education to encourage thought more people will not question. Questioning also takes energy and is a luxury in this state as if you are worked to the bone and exhausted there is no time to think. Church becomes a solace then, a place where you can dream of a heaven taht may or may not exist, where you can barter your soul on the chance that if you are a good enough person and suffer enough now you will not suffer when you are dead but oh you could be wrong.

This culture of underpaid labour is not at all threatened by immigration, when the children here are not educated enough to know their own legal rights when it comes to working. This means that there is a higher incidence of sexual harassment, dangerous working conditions, and those that speak up are more likely to be fired because they have no resources with which to fight back. In this culture that you visit and say is so wonderful, the people who are selling mass produced silverwork at a high price are doing this because this is all that is expected of them, and for many this is all they can do. Some do make their own jewelry but most of the merchants buy those works at a pittance of what you pay. There are some sellers that are reputable and will price their works fairly, but they often are told by you white tourists that this piece of jewelry must not be as good as the same one that costs YOU more at another store, you reveling in your privilege and showing your own lack of thought.

In New Mexico in these tourist areas people are often run down, because the worker there is not seen as a person but merely a prop to bring in your money to our state. People die because you choose to run them down out of the claim of being so tired from walking all over our cities on through you just not giving a damn. Yes sometimes it is a local driver that has mowed down a pedestrian but it is such a common occurrence that many people don’t notice anymore. The closer I am to a tourist spot the more likely I am to be killed.

With the movie industry coming to New Mexico there is another form of financial gain and another element of tourism. Our open spaces are now inundated constantly with the cameras. I fall prey at times to the excitement but now I am noticing that a large number of smart young people are choosing to try to get discovered instead of working or furthering their education. Hollywood is a shining element of fools gold showing a way out, that is another form of a trap. Such a low number of people actually become famous or rich, that this is creating another strain on the resources of the state. In order to not starve prospective actors and actresses turn to food stamps and state assistance or unemployment between gigs as extras. I consider periodically trying out for a space myself but it is always a choice between their privilege or my dignity. So I choose my dignity.

With so much hunger and often governmentally enforced squalor (Looking at you Denish and Richardson) where the funding is sent away from the programs that need it most and into cronies pockets the healthcare system is irrevocably broken. I am lucky enough that my insurance which often refuses me basic needs like medication forcing me into the hospital is here. Most New Mexicans will not recieve medical insurance until after the Obamacare plan has been enacted at it’s fullest. Then it is a matter of this plan being enforced, as enforcement is something you rarely see here unless it is law enforcement using their power to oppress a minority. The hospital connected to our University is never empty, the emergency room is always so full of the crushed and downtrodden humanity that people bleed to death in the emergency room before they are given care. People are dying there needlessly as there are only so many hands and many of them are simply students trying to learn the trade of medicine.

Between the countless malpractices, of which I am a victim, and misdiagnosis you will find mothers with screaming and sick children, people with a simple cold, and people that are dubbed homeless, pushed into a warm space by the lack of appropriate and accessible shelters. Between the dying are those who truly need a primary physician but they can get medical care in the ER and they cannot do so with a regular doctor because the fees are so high. If someone has the state’s Molina insurance they are forced into this system, and they may wait months before seeing a doctor. It is better to spend 48 hours in the ER than a month without care.

There are other hospitals, which I personally use but they often face the same problem. The overflow of emergency into their wards and those who want to try and avoid the crush of humanity at University of New Mexico Hospital enter these halls, it is the same. Long wait times, mass suffering, and the dying who would not be dying if they could just see a doctor on a regular basis. I am told there is no need for socialized medicine by you and those who can afford to travel, which denotes immediate privilege. I am told as you go to the nicest ER if something occurs on your trip that things surely are not this bad but this is my version of a happy tail for New Mexico.

The people are suffering, they are oppressed, and pushed down. The children do not know the benefits of education and are taught often with physical violence that questioning anything is wrong. It creates a mindless hive that is then sold to the consumer as an authentic culture. The authentic culture of the people here has been murdered long ago. Each time you come and consume us, you add into this even more. I know no one will stop coming after this, and yet there are things in this state beyond the borders of your safe tourism friendly areas that are fantastic and interesting. There are people here that are taught beliefs and educationally things that you see as archaic. You could explore the world of living anachronisms.

The people can be wonderful, sweet, charming, and amazing. The conversations you can have with some of the children and elders in my state about it’s history may disenchant you a bit, but isn’t this better than a ghost story that was manufactured for your fifty dollars? Wouldn’t it be better to hear about why the James Gang and Billy the Kid were seen as heroes from the descendants that still feel attacked, and rightfully so by the government?

What defines New Mexico is not the beautiful skies and wide open spaces that are nice to visit but instead is the massive amount of oppression, appropriation, and torture forced upon those born here. I have not spoken of the domestic violence culture that you are supporting by visiting… but it is a nice place to visit, so I hear. It would be better if it were a nice place to live.

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