In the Rearview

Looking back 10, 25, 50 years ago – week of May 10

20 years of Amigos Bravos activism, Taoseños march to D.C. for gay rights, Arroyo Hondo struggles to build center


– 10 YEARS AGO –

‘Amigos Bravos celebrates 20 years of activism’

By Andy DennisonMay 8, 2008

Andy Dennison starts his story by quoting an Amigos Bravos leader who compares working in the environmental movement as often “just trying to slow down the freight train.”

Nevertheless, then executive director Brian Shields had some major accomplishments to point to when looking back at the group’s two decades: challenging the BLM’s decision to allow a Molycorp mine tailings pond adjacent to the Wild Rivers Scenic Recreation area, cutting trails in that same recreation area, suing Los Alamos National Laboratories and preserving Valle Vidal.

Amigos Bravos, or Friends of the Wild Rivers, did much community organizing around several of these issues. Ranchers, environmentalists, sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts came together to ask Congress to protect the 110,000-acre Valle Vidal from natural gas exploration.

Today Amigos Bravos is still active and even bigger than it was in 2008. The group opened an Albuquerque office to assist efforts to preserve resources in the city’s South Valley. Locally, Amigos has focused on rebuilding and protecting watersheds, especially on the Río Fernando and Río Pueblo, and influencing U.S. Forest Service decisions on the Carson National Forest’s wetlands.

– 25 YEARS AGO –

“A trip to D.C. and back’

By Alisa DuncanMay 6, 1993

Duncan’s story, which led the “Vecinos” section 25 years ago told of the two dozen or so Taoseños who attended the “April 25 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation.” They were part of a 500-member New Mexico contingent to the march, the third of its kind and one which drew nearly 1 million marchers.

The march story was told through the eyes of two Taoseños: David Balsom and Jean Thompson. Balson also brought his mother, a California resident and former anti-Vietnam War activist, along.

“It was so awesome to see that many people who used to hide, who were willing to stop hiding,” Thompson said.

“It was a red letter date in my life,” added Balsom.

Thompson had been in Taos 19 years when she went to the march. She owned and operated Loose Ends Office Systems. Balsom had been in Taos only a year when he made the trip to Washington, D.C.

Although a bill that would have extended civil rights to gay New Mexicans had failed in that year’s state Legislature, both Thompson and Balsom were optimistic about New Mexico coming around to their viewpoint. “We broke a lot of ground on an important issue in this state,” Balsom said. “Now we need to do some grassroots organizing.”

New Mexico’s delegation to the march did its own thing, according to the two Taoseños. Waiting for their turn to march in the line with other states, some small groups of the contingent got bored and went to the front of the line to watch the march, planning to join up when the New Mexico group was scheduled to reach them, admittedly five hours after the march began.

Instead, the main contingent of New Mexicans started their own march, so to speak, straight up the Washington Mall and to the stage. The small breakout groups had to step in line “between Louisiana and Hawaii” waving their miniature New Mexico flags.

Eventually, about 75 members of the state delegation met up, and the rest were at the stage.  Apparently, marching to a different drummer has always been a New Mexico tradition even if the phrase was coined by a New Englander.

A decade later, the state Legislature passed an act relating to human rights and to prevent discrimination regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.  

– 50 YEARS AGO –

‘Funds approved for new center’

Staff reportMay 9, 1968

Two stories on the front page told a money story about Taos County, Taos schools and Arroyo Hondo residents trying to raise the money necessary for a community center in that tiny settlement scattered along the Río Hondo northwest of Taos.

The gist was that county commissioners had agreed to contribute $10,000 and the schools another $10,000 to the $30,000 local contribution required by the federal Housing and Urban Development Department before it would release the $63,000 that Arroyo Hondo had applied for in January. The plan was to build the center in the “old REA (Rural Electric Association) building.”

The county commission also announced that it would spend $65,000 in total, part of the $750,000 it had set aside to build a new county courthouse and offices, to help build other outlying community centers in “the Ranchos area, the Peñasco area, Amalia and Costillo area” as well as Hondo’s center.

The county, of course, was depending on HUD or some other agency to come up with any additional needed funds. The late ‘60s were the days of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, so perhaps it wasn’t such an unlikely idea that the feds would cough up more funds.

In any event, Hondo residents were still worried about meeting HUD’s local funds requirement. After the schools contributed another $10,000, they had to raise the remaining $11,000. The Taos News reported that the residents had raised $1,000 from selling “tickets”—the article doesn’t say to what or for what—and $500 in cash donations. They had more fundraisers planned. Other ideas that came up at the meeting were asking a UNM architecture student to draw up the plans for free, saving the group several thousand dollars,  and providing all the vigas themselves as an in-kind contribution.

Arroyo Hondo’s desire for this center was palpable at an earlier meeting with the school district. The reporter covering it noticed as they walked out that community members in attendance had started a collection on a back table of dollar bills and change.