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When you are at the pulpit here in this church, how much of a sense of history do you have? And do you sometimes have a glimpse of what it could have been like, how old is the church? The church is more than 200 years old, about 200 years old. Do you ever have sort of echoes and resonances from the past come along in your mind when you're here? Definitely. I never knew my great grandparents and they were from this valley and so when I look upon the people I see their face, I see the relationship, just in the way that we look alike. Your great grandparents could have been in the congregation. The congregation? Would have been sitting right out there. Yes, they would. In this church. In this very church. And you didn't know them, but you've seen pictures of them. Yes. I know where their land was. I know where the ruins of their house were and the people appointed it out to me.
And when I came here, you know, the people, I told the people and right away, some of the elderly remember the name, you know, Narciso-Size, Gavriel Chavez, my great grandparents. So I have a real sense of, from that relationship with my ancestors, that I have a responsibility to carry on what was taught me, the respect for the land, for our way of life, the lifestyle here, that I have a responsibility to relate to the people, not in a dominating way, but rather as a brother and working with them, seeing to their needs and hopefully preserving the way of life here in this family. Do the people in the congregation, in the parish, when they find out that you have grandparents in here, are they impressed by that?
Are they pleased by that? They're impressed in the sense that they know that that relationship is more important than my ordination. What's, by that I mean is that I'm not just a priest, but I am a relative, I'm related to them, who happens to be a priest. Did they refer to you as the young priest from Santa Fe? No, no, just the young priest, but not from the city, I mean they don't think of you as someone from the city. No. No suspicion there. Well, there's always suspicion of anyone new who comes into the valley. There must be a very, very careful approach when, quote unquote, newcomers, even people who have ancestral ties here.
He's got a strange noise. It's not supposed to do that. Yes, they're plastic. I thought it was pigeons or something in your bag. You were saying this natural suspicion when people come, even if there's ancestral ties. The valley, the Viennoyle Valley, Upper Pecos River Valley, for many generations and centuries has been isolated, recently in the past 20 years, especially with the gentrification of Santa Fe, many more people from outside New Mexico have moved here.
In Santa Fe, especially the recent statistics by the US Bureau of Census, for the first time since 1609 when Santa Fe was established as the capital city of New Mexico. For the first time this year, Hispanics are not the majority in the city. Hispanics now cannot afford to live in the city. Property values have increased, real estate, the gentrification process is now considered like Aspen or some community, Palm Springs, and so very wealthy people have moved in. The local native people cannot afford to live there. As a result, they have to move out into the county, so those US Bureau of Census statistics show that while in the city of Santa Fe, the population of Hispanics is now about 48%
of the population, county-wise the number of Hispanics has increased in the county areas. So that shows us that Hispanics have had to move out, and that's usually what happens in the process of gentrification. The theory is that many times people will then want to move out, find Valley beautiful and want to come and build condos and condominiums, develop property here. We had a recent episode of that. There was a group from Santa Fe, a very well-meaning community permaculture. Bill Molison from Australia started this concept borrowed from the Aborigines, very much in tune with Native American understanding of the relationship of the land. Bill Molison came to Santa Fe about four years ago, and there was a group of people who
decided that they wanted to form a community where they would live together and follow the ideas of permaculture. So they came out here to the Valley and they wanted to purchase some land in El Pueblo. So they had this fancy brochure and tried to sell parcels of land. The brochure stated that you need at least $50,000 annual income to live in the community, which would exclude everyone that lives here now in the Valley. Also in the brochure it stated that no pets were allowed in their unique community, but if you had horses that you used for recreational purposes that you could keep them with the other villagers down by the river, meaning us, they were going to live in what they called Pueblo Alto, which means the higher village upon a mess overlooking El Pueblo.
Somehow they made the mistake in this whole process of not establishing a relationship with the existing community. When it was brought to our attention by a reporter from Santa Fe that this community was coming here and initially there were going to be 25 families moving, then 15, then 100. The people were very upset and they wanted to know what was happening. So it had been very kept very quiet and secretive. So the reporter connected me with the leader of the permaculture community and I talked to him on the phone and he said, well, can I have a meeting with the people in the Valley and I said, sure. So we had a meeting here in the church, in the same church one night, about an hour before, two hours before they were supposed to come down from Santa Fe to talk with the villagers,
he called me and tried to change his mind about coming down and I said, look, that would be very fatal for the plan if you did that. So they decided to come down and there had been wild rumours of what else was going to go on in this, but the concept was great, as far as their relationship with the land and recycling things and the use of the land, but they had not established that relationship or have not made the connection with the existing people, the community already here and the land. And at the end of the meeting lasted for about three hours and there was some heated discussion, there was anger, the fact that there was so secretive that people wondered why these people doing this and how come they're secretive. At the end of the meeting, I asked the people, there was about 150 people from the village
and the valley here in the church, I asked all those who feel uncomfortable with what you've heard say aye and the aye is rang out throughout the church, I said all those who feel comfortable with what you've heard say aye, there was dead silence. And so as a result, the particular development is no longer being developed. But there has to be that understanding, certainly that the people, the community is a part of the land and there has to be that respect. And if there is not that respect, you know, I as a priest cannot come into this parish and say okay, I'm going to do things my way. I have to know the people and understand that to get to Carl's band, there's only three rounds, highway any four, which is already designated, and we fought that, goes to run by
Anton Chico, which is a terrible road, it's two lane highway, there's 16 miles of that two lane highway, there's no shoulder. I mean, it's, but the highway department decided that they wanted to widen the road through this valley, highway three, with two 16 foot wide lanes and eight foot wide shoulders. The idea is they want to bring it up to federal highway regulations. They told us that, you know, because they wanted to improve the traffic and make it less dangerous because the road is so curving, hugs along the river and the canyon. And so the people decided that we came together and we've sent a letter to the governor, to the highway commission. And when we came together as a community to talk about this road, I thought people would say, well, let's not have the road, you know, let's try to get them to narrow the road,
the new road, so it won't be 16 foot wide lanes and eight foot wide shoulders. Let's compromise. At the meeting, there was no compromise. The people all said, we don't want no new road at all. We don't want the highway department in here in this valley. And they can come in and maintain it, but no new road at all. I was pleasantly surprised, but it's really shocked that there was no compromise at all. Because they could see, then, that for sure, it would be a whip route. The route through near Santa Fe, that passes to Laney Junction, goes by El Dorado, which is a very exclusive community, and there's a lot of people that have a lot of money to live there. And they have a lot of power, and they've said no to the whip route through there. So when they were looking for a route, they considered that, but then because of the opposition,
and because of who the opposition was, there was no question. They wouldn't consider that. But they chose Highway 84, which is about 30 miles from here, which would bring the waste from Colorado and up further up North, and then take it down to connect to Karls Bat. But these type of intrusions, which are not good for the community or for the land, and we had another example, a very, very tragic one. Six years ago, there was a retired scientist from Los Alamos, who wanted to set up a shop and he came to San Jose, a village just off the Interstate of I-25, about 12 miles from here. And he told people that he was going to buy some land, and he was going to make a tortilla factory.
And people said, well, that's nice, he can, we'll have some employment, because unemployment is very high in this county. It's about 20% unemployment. And you know, something like that would be nice. We can make tortillas and sell them. And it turned out that the man applied for license to work with Thorium, and depleted uranium. What was he going to do? Well, he has contracts with Kenny Cotton, the federal government, and it's the company is called Santa Fe Alois, and he's the only employee. And evidently, he does trying to come up with some Alois using depleted uranium and Thorium for God knows what. But he's where he set up his shop, is right above the river, the Pickles River. Oh, we're very concerned, you know, you know, pollute the river, our main lifeline here to the valley, with Thorium or depleted uranium.
You know, pollute the river with depleted uranium or Thorium. We had a community meeting, people had a community meeting six years ago, and the environmental improvement division gave him a license anyway. Last year, the license is good for five years. The license came up for renewal. We had another meeting, we said, you know, this really isn't good for us. You know, we don't, the man was not allowed to set up his business in Santa Fe County, because Santa Fe County has regulations against that type of work of business. Not even in Los Alamos County could he set it up. And, but San Miguel County, who never in their minds, I guess the county commissioners never thought somebody would want to set up a lab to work with depleted uranium and Thorium, there were no regulations against it. So he did.
So he did. EID refused to come out for, when they came time to renew the license, to meet with the people here. Their reason for not coming out. They had the meeting in Santa Fe, was that they were afraid of the people. And so they wouldn't come out here to meet with us. There have been attempts, you know, we really, really had to work with the people so that we leave this place alone, because it's dangerous building, there's some dangerous chemicals. Try to find out what chemicals he's using in that process. And it's all covered up, we can't get to anything going into the river. We're monitoring that, EID, see the administration, the previous state administration, to the one that came into state government now in January, the governor was Gary Carruthers, who was under secretary of the environment under Watts. During his four years, the environmental improvement division was really the laughing stock of people
who are loving concern, have concern for the environment. This man who was given this license to work with Thorium, depleted uranium, is self-regulated. Nobody from the state monitors him. Nobody comes out here and checks on him. He does it himself. But it's not a tortilla factory. It certainly isn't. If it is a tortilla factory, these ones glow in the dark. Let me ask you about how you came here. When you grew up in Santa Fe, did you come out to this valley much? We came through here at times to see where our great grandparents lived. I came when I was a small child, I came with my grandmother to visit her cousins who lived in San Jose and near El Pueblo, and I remember, she would tell me stories about like starvation
peak, El Cero de Bernal, which is a peak where they would have processions to the top of the peak, and the people would have valorios, what they call valorios, and all night vigils. They would pray. Times of drought, they would carry the santos, the statues, the saints up there and pray for rain, different needs. That particular peak, also, there was a group of settlers that were being attacked by the Senate of Americans and planes Indians. The commandchies used to raid here, and the Spanish also used to raid the commandchies, and they would steal each other's children, and for the most part, they would be part of the families, but they would be criados, raised in the family.
This particular event happened when there was a Native American and Indian raid in Bernal, so all the villagers went up the peak, and it's very narrow as it climbs, and the story goes that the Native Americans surrounded the bottom of the peak, and the villagers had no way of getting any more food, so they all starved up there, and there was no way for them to come down, so that's why it's called starvation peak.
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Sanchez: A Priest in San Miguel
Part 1
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KUNM (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
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Sanchez describes his relationship to his ancestors and their teachings to respect the land and people. He discusses demographic changes in Santa Fe that have lead to gentrification. He describes the the importance of community in making environmental and development decisions. Part 1 of 2.
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Producing Organization: KUNM
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Duration: 00:30:00
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Chicago: “Sanchez: A Priest in San Miguel; Part 1,” 1991-06-18, KUNM, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 20, 2024,
MLA: “Sanchez: A Priest in San Miguel; Part 1.” 1991-06-18. KUNM, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 20, 2024. <>.
APA: Sanchez: A Priest in San Miguel; Part 1. Boston, MA: KUNM, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from