TUES: Iconic New Mexico Author Rudolfo Anaya Dies, +More

Jun 30, 2020

Rudolfo Anaya, 'Godfather' Of Chicano Literature, Dies At 82 - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press, KUNM

Rudolfo Anaya, who helped launch the 1970s Chicano Literature Movement with his novel "Bless Me, Ultima," has died.

Anaya's niece, Belinda Henry, says the celebrated author died Sunday at his Albuquerque, New Mexico, home after a long illness. He was 82.

Anaya came onto the scene with his breakthrough work, "Bless Me, Ultima," in 1972. The World War II-era novel about a young Mexican American boy's relationship with an older curandera, or healer, influenced a generation of Latino writers.

It was made into a feature film in 2013. The book's release coincided with the growing and militant Chicano movement that stressed cultural pride over assimilation. It also came as Mexican-American college students were demanding more literature by Latino authors.

In 2016, Anaya was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama.

At a 2002 writers forum in Jemez Springs, Anaya evoked writer John Gardner and said creative people often go through a traumatic experience that causes them to question what their purpose is in life.

"It's during that search that then we draw upon the tradition, say the oral tradition, the reading tradition, education we draw from the people we draw from the place and try to answer those questions," Anaya said.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called Anaya one of the state's greatest artists and a seminal figure in literature.

"Through his indelible stories, Rudolfo Anaya, perhaps better than any other author, truly captured what it means to be a New Mexican, what it means to be born here, grow up here and live here," she said in a statement.

Independent Producer Paul Ingles contributed to this story.

Water Diversions Paused To Ensure Rio Grande Keeps Flowing - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

One of New Mexico's largest drinking water providers has decided to stop diverting water from the Rio Grande to help prevent the stretch that runs through Albuquerque from going dry this summer.

The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority said Tuesday that the curtailment is expected to last until the fall. The river is dwindling due to poor runoff and officials expect large sections of the river to run dry.

Utility officials say they will shift to using groundwater exclusively over the summer to provide drinking water to customers in the metro area. They're also urging people to conserve water.

The latest federal drought map shows about three-quarters of the state are dealing with some form of drought, with the area along the New Mexico-Colorado border seeing the most extreme conditions. Swaths of moderate to severe drought also are covering parts of northwestern and eastern New Mexico.

While the region is on the verge of the summer rainy season, forecasters have cautioned that this year could see close to or below average rainfall while temperatures will range from slightly above to above average.

New Mexico's Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Passes The 12,000 Mark – Associated Press

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in New Mexico has passed the 12,000 mark.

State health officials on Tuesday reported an additional 168 cases, raising the toll since the outbreak began to 12,147. They also reported four additional deaths, bringing the total of people in New Mexico who are known to have died from the coronavirus to 497.

Department of Health officials say 36 of the 168 additional COVID-19 cases were reported in Bernalillo County, the state's most populous that includes the Albuquerque metro area.

They also say 5,393 people in New Mexico who had COVID-19 have recovered.

Governor Signs Budget Solvency Plan, Vetoes Some CutsAssociated Press

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed a budget solvency plan seeking to mend a multibillion-dollar deficit by scaling back spending increases.

But the Democrat vetoed Tuesday some cuts to public education and other areas. State government finances are reeling from the coronavirus epidemic's economic fallout and aggressive state emergency health restrictions designed to hold the virus at bay.

New Mexico economists are forecasting a $2.4 billion decline in state government income through June 2021 amid the economic upheaval.

The governor vetoed more than $30 million in budget cuts, restoring funding slated for reduction for public schools and other measures.

This month, Senate Democrats joined with a handful of Republicans during a special session to approve a roughly $7 billion spending plan for the budget year beginning July 1, which scaled back state spending by about $600 million.

Salary increases for state agency and public school workers were scaled back from 4% to 1% or less under the proposal, with pay bumps focused on lower-income public employees to offset rising health insurance premiums.

But the pullback on spending increases went farther than recommendations from Lujan Grisham.

New Mexico Tribe Transforms Old Casino Into Movie Studio - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

A northern New Mexico Native American tribe is opening a movie studio it hopes will attract big productions.

Tesuque Pueblo recently converted its former casino near Santa Fe into a movie studio campus with more than 25,000 square feet of film shooting space. The tribe also dedicated more than 27 square miles on its land for outdoor movie scenes.

Cheyenne and Arapaho filmmaker Chris Eyre is advising the studio and says the campus has many existing sets. The tribe's land features stunning desert in the red-brown foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Netflix and NBCUniversal have invested in New Mexico studios in recent years.

The tribe with about 800 members decided to open the studio after scenes from the Universal Pictures western movie "News of the World" starring Tom Hanks were filmed last year in the Camel Rock Casino, which closed in 2018.

Tribal officials plan to create internships and movie training programs for Tesuque Pueblo members and hope that the studio will foster a new storytelling movement, Eyer said.

Navajos Concerned With COVID-19 Spikes In Surrounding AreasAssociated Press

The Navajo Nation has extended the closure of tribal government offices and ordered residents to stay home for another three weeks.

Tribal officials say they are concerned with spikes in the number of COVID-19 cases off the reservation that extends into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

Arizona again shut down bars, nightclubs and gyms amid a surge of coronavirus cases. New Mexico has paused plans for reopening more of the state's economy.

Navajo Nation health officials reported 63 additional cases of coronavirus, with no new deaths. That puts the total of positive COVID-19 cases on the reservation at 7,532 as of Monday. The death toll remains at 363. 

New Mexico School Districts Make Plans Amid Virus PandemicAssociated Press

School districts in New Mexico are preparing their plans for resuming classes in the fall amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In Las Cruces, district officials are reminding parents that all school-age children must be up to date on immunizations or have the proper exemption from the state Health Department.

The Carlsbad school district is hopeful the overall lower number of COVID-19 positive cases in the community could mean a normal school year for students.

There have been fewer than 80 cases in Eddy County. Overall, New Mexico has reported over 12,000 cases since the outbreak began. On Tuesday it reported four additional deaths as well bringing the total to 497.

Mixed Results For Albuquerque Pandemic Worker ProtectionsAlbuquerque Journal, KUNM

Only one of three worker protection bills heard by the Albuquerque City Council was passed Monday. A rejected proposal would have required essential businesses to provide employees with hazard pay.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the city council Monday struck down a bill that would have mandated essential businesses with more than 50 employees to provide extra pay during the pandemic to employees who make less than $12 an hour.

The proposal failed on a 2-7 vote with only its sponsors, Isaac Benton and Lan Sena, in favor.

Another bill that dealt with mandatory paid sick leave was withdrawn.

The legislation would have provided Albuquerque employees up to 80 hours of leave this year and established a permanent fund beginning in 2021. Its sponsors, also Benton and Sena, plan to resubmit it at the council’s August meeting, though Benton told the Albuquerque Journal that he wants to separate the two provisions and prioritize the pandemic-based leave for this year.

A third bill requiring employees to wear masks, and mandating that their employers supply them, was successful. It also requires businesses to post signs telling customers to wear masks, though there’s no requirement that businesses confront customers who flout the rule.

New Mexico Judge Rejects Bid To Dismiss Education Case - By Cedar Attanasio AP/Report For America

A New Mexico judge has rejected a motion by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to dismiss a landmark education lawsuit that was filed against the state.

The Democratic governor had argued that her administration was on its way to addressing the ruling and that the case should be dismissed.

The 2018 ruling that New Mexico failed to provide children with sufficient education as required by the state constitution has brought racial and socioeconomic inequity to the forefront in a state where per-student spending and educational achievement hover near the bottom of national rankings.

The lawsuit filed by Hispanic and Navajo plaintiffs successfully argued that the state failed most schoolchildren, especially English-language learners and Indigenous and low-income children. It was filed in 2017 when Republican Susana Martinez was governor.

The 2018 verdict by the late Judge Sarah Singleton ordered the state to fix funding and inequality issues by April 2019.

Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, supported the lawsuit during her gubernatorial campaign and dropped an appeal of the lawsuit that was mounted by Martinez' administration when she took office. Her motion seeking to dismiss the case came later.

A lawyer for the state argued that the Lujan Grisham administration has taken significant steps to address the court's order during the 18 months that she has been in office.

First District Judge Matthew Wilson credited the state for taking what he called "immediate action," but ruled that the increases in funding and changes so far were not substantial enough to end the court's involvement in the case.

"The state cannot be deemed to have complied with this court's orders until it shows that the necessary programs and reforms are being provided to all at-risk students to ensure that they have the opportunity to be college and career ready," Wilson told lawyers and about 200 people watching the hearing via a video broadcast and listening on phone lines due to COVID-19 closures.

In asking Wilson to dismiss the case, Lujan Grisham said she was trying to maintain the independence of the Public Education Department.


New Mexico Governor Signs Bill To Help Financial Strain Associated Press

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed a measure that would temporarily forgive tax-interest penalties during the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill signed Monday also will boost temporary state payments to cities hit hard by the economic downturn. The measure was passed during the recent special legislative session.

For New Mexicans unable to pay their taxes on time, the bill temporarily waives interest and penalties on late payments.

State officials say taxpayers must still file their tax returns in a timely manner, but payments may follow at a later date. New payment deadlines have been set for April 2021.

The measure was among eight pieces of legislation that lawmakers passed during the recent special session, which focused primarily on solvency issues for state government.

Lujan Grisham still has to act on the budget bill as well as legislation that would mandate police body cameras for nearly all state and local law enforcement officers.

New Mexico Health Agency Reports 173 Additional Virus CasesAssociated Press

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in New Mexico is approaching 12,000.

State health officials on Monday reported an additional 173 cases, bringing the statewide total since the outbreak began to 11,982. Bernalillo and Doña Ana counties, which are the state's most populous, accounted for nearly half the additional cases reported Monday.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham warned last week that she was pausing plans for another phase of economic reopening because the numbers were trending up.

She blamed lax personal behaviors and urged people to stay at home, avoid gatherings and to wear masks when out in public.

The number of infections is thought to be higher because many people haven't been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

New Mexico's infections include about 900 state and federal inmates who are being held at lockups around the state. Facilities in Otero County are among the hardest hit.

State health officials also reported an additional death, bringing the total of people in New Mexico who are known to have died from the virus to 493.

NMSU Investigates Cyberattack On University FoundationAssociated Press

New Mexico State University and the school's foundation say they're investigating a cyberattack on the foundation's computers. University officials said Monday that unusual network activity was first noticed last week.

There's no evidence of any data theft, but officials say they're still investigating.

The NMSU Foundation is looking to hire an external cybersecurity forensics company to determine exactly what occurred and confirm the security of the network.

The foundation is made up of the Office of Alumni Relations and the Office of University Advancement. Its network is separate from the university.

Supreme Court Declines To Hear Border Wall ChallengeAssociated Press

The Supreme Court is leaving in place a decision that rejected environmental groups' challenge to sections of wall the Trump administration is building along the U.S. border with Mexico.

The high court on Monday declined to hear an appeal involving construction of 145 miles of steel-bollard walls along the border in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas.

Environmental groups had challenged a federal law that allows the secretary of Homeland Security to waive any laws necessary to allow the quick construction of border fencing.

Environmental groups argued that violates the Constitution's separation of powers. But a lower court dismissed the case.

Deaths Of 2 Mexican Gray Wolves Investigated In New Mexico Associated Press

Wildlife managers are investigating the deaths of two Mexican gray wolves found in May in New Mexico.

The team that oversees recovery of the endangered species in New Mexico and Arizona has documented a dozen mortalities among the wild population over the first five months of this year.

The Center for Biological Diversity said the pack's alpha male was the 21st wolf to be shot by the government since reintroduction of the species began in the Southwest U.S. two decades ago.

The organization also said it's the fifth to be shot by federal employees this year.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which leads the interagency recovery team, is under a court order to rewrite the rule governing management of the wolves.

Thousands of comments were submitted before the June 15 deadline. The federal agency is expected to issue a draft rule and an environmental impact statement later this year, triggering another public comment period.


New Mexico Authorities: Pony Found Stabbed, Butchered - Associated Press

New Mexico authorities are investigating after a horse was found stabbed in the chest and partially butchered in his stall in Corrales. 

Inspectors with the state Livestock Board say the Welsh pony named Rocky had flesh cut from his body and removed from the scene. 

Investigators are looking for witnesses and any video footage that was taken between 10 p.m. on June 24 and 7 a.m. the next morning. 

Livestock Board Deputy Director Shawn Davis called it a brutal and senseless crime, saying whoever did this is a danger to the community. 

A reward of up to $5,000 is being offered.

Alan Edmonds, a case manager with Animal Protection of New Mexico, said the crime amounts to extreme animal cruelty under state law. He urged anyone with information to call the organization's animal cruelty hotline.