Environmental Politics in New Mexico Forest Communities, 1970–2000
By Kay Matthews
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The Culture Clash story begins in the 1970s in the village of Placitas, New Mexico at the north end of the Sandia Mountains, where author Kay Matthews built a house and began a family while involved in disputes with the Forest Service over forest management and with real estate developers bent on gentrification. It then moves to El Valle, a land grant village of 20 families at the base of the Pecos Wilderness, where she and her family moved in the early 1990s seeking a more rural life. Here, during the rest of that decade and into the 2000s, the small villages of el norte were engaged in battles on numerous fronts: protecting the integrity of traditional acequias; guaranteeing the rights of community-based foresters and ranchers to access public lands; addressing the long standing grievances of the loss of land grants; and maintaining the rural nature of communities through appropriate economic development. As a journalist documenting these struggles, and as a norteño living la lucha, Matthews weaves together a personal narrative and political analysis of a complex and dynamic rural New Mexico.
Kay Matthews is a freelance journalist and editor of La Jicarita, an online journal of environmental politics. She and her partner Mark Schiller started La Jicarita in 1996 as the print newspaper of a watershed watchdog group. The paper soon expanded to investigate environmental and social justice issues all over northern New Mexico. She lives on a farm in El Valle where she raised two children, grows fruit, vegetables, and pasture hay, and served as an acequia commissioner for many years.
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