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30. April 2008, 1:34 Uhr, Geschrieben von Miriam Meckel

Hitting the road of globalization (2)


Developing a developed country

As we have almost reached the top of the hill plateau north of Albuquerque, New Mexico, a water truck passes spraying water on the road to keep the dust down. A few minutes later we can overlook the Pajarito Mesa, a settlement of 1.400 people, most of them Mexicans, who live here without any of the blessings a life in a developed country normally provides.

450 families live on this devastated piece of land in mobile homes or trailers – some of them have been on the Mesa for more that twenty years and in third generation. Sandra is the community speaker and shows us around. There is no electricity, no water supply, no medical care, no public service of any kind. At least the community has managed – after years of struggling – that the school bus regularly picks up their children at the entrance of the Mesa each morning and brings them back in the afternoon. Some of the kids have to walk about three miles till they approach their homes each day in the morning and in the afternoon, because the Mesa is a vast community. On their way they have to fear encounters with rattle snakes and coyotes. But the bus stops right at the end of the public road as if it wouldn’t dare to move on. It’s exactly the spot where the concrete road turns into a dirt road the community built on their own initiative.

Even the police seem to avoid the Mesa Pajarito. So there is no security and a lot of vandalism is giving the inhabitants a hard time. A woman about 60 years old gets off her car to say hello to us. She is simply happy that someone is visiting the Mesa. She lost her home twice because of strangers dropping by destroying every part of her house and taking away the few things the family with a disabled father and five children possessed.

Most of the adults at the Mesa go to work every day. They have to drive to Albuquerque so a car is crucial to sustain daily life for a variety of reasons. On each trip they visit the local gas stations, shops or restaurants to beg for water. And if not too many Mesa neighbours have exhausted the patience of the donors there might be a chance to bring back some gallons of water that keep up the family life for another day or two.

It was a community initiative that turned a page: When New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson declared that he would be running for presidency Sandra organized a joined agitation. „How will you be representing the people of New Mexico if you can’t even supply our small community with running water?“ she asked the Governor. That finally helped. They will start to build a well soon right next to the entrance of the Mesa.

Only a few yards from that spot your view can follow a major power line going down to Texas. There is enough electricity but the people of the community don’t have access to the grid. The problem of electricity will stay unsolved meanwhile.

What we experience and observe at this spot in New Mexico is really thought-provoking. The living conditions, the shortages of supply for basic daily needs, the way of constipating legal immigrants at some benighted place – that all reminds of a developing country. It’s so called ‚third world‘ alike. Remember: We are in the U.S. in the year 2008. It takes time and effort to merge observations and knowledge.

As we leave the mesa going back to Albuquerque we pass the water truck again. It atomized the water desperately needed in the community so that it binds the dust on the street. At second glance that almost seems like a cynical citation of what we have just experienced.

16 Reaktionen

  1. 30. April 2008, 7:32 Uhr, von Maty

    Year 2008 and Nothing is the same around the World. Viviamo nelle stesso mondo ma non vediamo tutti lo stesso orizzonte. Triste ma vero.

  2. 30. April 2008, 9:29 Uhr, von Maike

    It is truly incredible that people in highly developed countries still need to live under these conditions. It would be hard to find places like the Mesa in Switzy or Germany. Why is that so? Is it a question of mentality or of politics?

  3. 30. April 2008, 9:41 Uhr, von Isabelle

    The USA: The country of great extremes.
    Sure even in Europe we have a great gap between poor and rich, but I think everyone has at least running water.

    The posting reminded me of a novel I read once in school a long time ago: „The Tortilla Curtain“ from T.C. Boyel. It’s a social-critical novel about an illigal mexican immigrant and his difficulties to survive in the country of his hopes.

  4. 30. April 2008, 10:32 Uhr, von Maike

    Normally setting politicians under pressure helps as you see. It’s like a game. They will act if they see an advantage for their campaign. Sandra should continue till he also solves the electricity problem. Be pragmatical!

  5. 30. April 2008, 10:39 Uhr, von Hanna

    I found that Governor Richardson agreed to help about two years ago and the community even had a loan to build the well six years ago, but it expired due to property issues around the spot where it was to be built… And since Richardson is not even running for President anymore, who knows if it is actually going to happen.

  6. 30. April 2008, 10:47 Uhr, von Walter

    ‚…but I think everyone has at least running water.‘
    (Isabelle am 30. April 2008 um 09:41 Uhr)
    No! Even among the 3500 inhabitants in our west german community there are some people who live without running water and electricity, because they cannot pay their bills. Most of their neighbors ignore this or won’t know it.
    There are always humans falling trough the social net, which is woven more dense in our country than in the USA.
    It‘ s a question of attention, concern and care, not only for the’…but I think everyone has at least running water.‘
    (Isabelle am 30. April 2008 um 09:41 Uhr)
    No! Even among the 3500 inhabitants in our west german community there are some people who live without running water and electricity, because they cannot pay their bills. Most of their neighbors ignore this or won’t know it. There are always humans falling trough the social net, which is woven more dense in our country than in the USA.
    In fact it‘ s a question of attention, concern and care for all of us, not only for the authority.

  7. 30. April 2008, 10:48 Uhr, von Walter

    Sorry for this accident!

  8. 30. April 2008, 11:03 Uhr, von Anna

    This reminds me of the reservation areas built for „the indigenous people“ of which I visited 2. One in Canada and one in the U.S.

    Don’t know whether a glimpse on „native America“ or „first Nations“ is a part of your programm but it helped me to learn more about the northamerican way to deal with resources.

  9. 30. April 2008, 11:21 Uhr, von Kata

    @ Walter: And not only people who can’t pay their bills – some time ago I watched a report on TV about a village in Eastern Germany that doesn’t have access to running water – and they have been debating about that with the politicians for years!
    Unfortunately I can’t remember the name of th village, but I’ll find out later – no time right now…

  10. 30. April 2008, 13:56 Uhr, von Julia

    Another good book about this topic (also from T.C. Boyle) is ‚America‘.
    T.C. Boyle, by the way, is always criticizing the american lifestyle and maybe therefore he is very popular in Germany? He does sell more copies than in the US.

    But when you take the train from Berlin to Frankfurt and you sit on the right side while passing by in Göttingen there are some houses that resemble these houses…

  11. 30. April 2008, 14:18 Uhr, von Dowanda

    I love T.C. Boyle – and „America“. Another book I like very much, playing in the early 20th century, is „Sanctuary“ (in German: Die Freistatt) by William Faulkner.
    It deals with racism, alcoholism and in which way birth makes the difference, even inside the same race.

  12. 30. April 2008, 15:53 Uhr, von Lena

    Du meinst die Wagenburg in Göttingen, oder? Aber hinter der Entscheidung auf einem Wagenplatz dieser Art zu leben steht wohl häufiger eine kapitalismuskritische politische Gesinnung bzw. ein bestimmter Lebensentwurf, als pure Not und Alternativlosigkeit.

  13. 30. April 2008, 17:24 Uhr, von Walter

    This may be the dark side of pragmatism. Following the german quote: ‚Jeder ist seines Glückes Schmied‘, each one has the opportunity to succeed. But there are no equal opportunities and the lost and forgotten are the losers of this great and prosper nation. We saw this as well in New orleans after Katrina and we can see it in the big cities.
    Georges W. Bush didn’t felt invited to change the conditions of the poor, he used them, for he has need for soldiers in Iraq.
    We will see whether Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or John McCain will deal with the problem of pauperization. Both democrats have learned from poor people in Chicago, following the ideas of Saul Alinsky.
    Richard Sennett knows both.

  14. 30. April 2008, 19:54 Uhr, von Natalie

    I guess there are hundreds (and I mean hundreds) of people in the German city I live in who live under poorer conditions than the Mesa people. They simply are kind of invisible since they don’t have a valid German passport.

  15. 30. April 2008, 22:06 Uhr, von Walter

    ‚It takes time and effort to merge observations and knowledge.‘
    People living in small poorly built cabins and old mobil homes on this wide Mesa Pajarito seem even lost and forgotten in this country. This place is not far from Los Alamos, where the A and H bomb were constructed. This land looks damaged like after an a bomb explosion. But the residents carry on to organize their lives: ‚Residents on Pajarito Mesa pay taxes like the rest of the citizens of Bernalillo County and deserve the same services. „We demand nothing more than dignity and justice,“ says SWOP organizer and Pajarito resident Sandra Montes.‘ They are living there, struggling ( and they have a blog. (

  16. 30. April 2008, 22:21 Uhr, von Walter

    The Campaign for a Better New Mexico (CBNM) prosecutes basic democracy: ‚At the CBNM we believe democracy doesn’t end on Election Day and that we have a right to participate in the decisions that affect our lives.‘


© Miriam Meckel 2002 bis 2018