Lament for La Cultura: Part II

By: Bill Whaley
2 February, 2017

Just as the History of Resistance to change is omnipresent in Taos so is the History of Political Complexity, where local Chicanery would undermine the local culture.

When Chris Lujan of Taos Pueblo presented his “Standing Rock” dancers, on January 20, so I thought of Taos Pueblo’s triumphant victory in their “Battle for Blue Lake,” which victory set a standard for Tribes across the nation in terms of preserving sacred land and water. I also thought of RISE and their “Uncertain Journey” in the victorious battle against the Kachina Lodge Casino project (part of a book I’m writing about the Horse Fly years).

And, of course, I thought of the political opposition to the Standing Rock represented by Trumpery. And certainly local animus was aimed at the Tribe’s rendezvous with Blue Lake in the sixties, opposition by county commissioners, some Town Councilors, and local business types. Similarly local business owners and The Taos News opposed RISE’s opposition to the Kachina casino project by “omitting the news.” Today The Taos News protects the Coop gang by failing to mention the alleged financial “crimes against community.”

The Taos News’ passion for advertising dollars reminds me of Trump who will do anything for a buck. How many times can the Baker Boys and Girls sell their souls to Mammon? What is the return on “crimes of omission?”

The passion for Taos Mountain Casino advertising, resulted in The Taos News’s refusal to acknowledge the RISE victory in Jan. 2000, underscored by a federal judge, who said of the nefarious back door deal: “I criticize it from the bench.” After the Tribe quite literally ran the casino promoter off the Rez in the spring of 2000, The Taos News finally acknowledged the demise of the project (when it was safe!).

Shortly thereafter, the editor abandoned Taos for Santa Fe where she thrives in civil society at the Santa Fe New Mexican. I don’t blame anyone for leaving: Taos is a tough town.

The Town in its zealous appeal to “outsiders” and “tourists” today also ignores the history of the rural Taoseno’s love affair with the automobile and closes the Plaza to La Cultura despite an ordinance that forbids closure except in the case of Fiesta.

If the fathers and single mother of the Town want change, then vote to change the ordinance: don’t violate the rule of law as Trump does. Acknowledge the obvious: you at the Town want a different kind of culture here in Taos. We who honor the local culture can see what you are doing.

Full disclosure: I confess my taste for nostalgia.

And where is the Flag that used to Fly 24/7 high above Historic Taos Plaza?

I am for the Farmer’s Market, the investment in the Concert series and acknowledge the popular importance of Halloween and Christmas. But I see no reason to shut the Plaza. We have seen far more activity from folks visiting the Plaza on a given Saturday in the 70s than appear today for special events.

Nobody got injured then by the traffic. The town did not close the Plaza except for Fiesta. Today’s Town leaders apparently believe in “old town plazas” but not a real or living Plaza that integrates Taosenos in the mix.

The automobile in my lifetime has been as important to Taos as the horse still was in the fifties when hitching posts still existed. Sure Walmart killed the commercial Plaza forty years ago. I just don’t like seeing my Town government jump on the corpse.

My own psyche lives in a present but is nourished by the past. I believe in the importance of history and taught non-fiction Southwest Literature because I loved it not because it was my job.

The slow death of La Cultura occurs because leaders ignore history and custom. For decades now La Gente de Taos say they have felt like strangers in their hometown. That is an awful thought. Now I know what the natives mean. We have taken it in that vulgar place made famous in The Big Lebowski.

Recently the mayor, council, and manager censured Mayor Phil Cantu’s daughter, Councilor Judi Cantu. A couple years ago Barrone, Bellis, and Hahn organized an angry mob to “lynch” her figuratively when she made known  her misgivings about the Council’s “Rasputin.” Since then some members of the mob have recanted and mutter about Judi’s righteous foresight. None of us are saying Councilor Cantu is perfect though a perfect pest but, really, a public show trial is going beyond the bounds of custom and taste. It’s no way to treat a lady.

(Randall’s employee and Taos Pueblo elder Frank Concha nicknamed me “the pesky insect” back in 1999,  which name I considered an honor: so I’m with  Judi the pest all the way. Call it “dissent,” an aversion to conformity.)

While The Taos News jumps on the Cantu story, the publisher and editor ignore crimes against community by both the Town and the Coop because The Taos News gets paid by advertising dollars to keep stories away from the general public.

And where is the Flag that used to Fly 24/7 high above Historic Taos Plaza?

I’m afraid to look.

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