New Mexico

Juárez on the rebound

By Lauren Villagran / Journal Staff Writer - Las Cruces Bureau
PUBLISHED: Sunday, March 9, 2014 at 12:05 am


With violence dropping, Ciudad Juárez is beginning to see a return of visitors to the city and its attractions, including this statue of the famous Mexican comedian Tin-Tan, who began his career in the city. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

With violence dropping, Ciudad Juárez is beginning to see a return of visitors to the city and its attractions, including this statue of the famous Mexican comedian Tin-Tan, who began his career in the city. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

CIUDAD JUÁREZ – This border city, forced to its knees for so long by drug violence, is slowly getting back on its feet.

Once famed for its nightlife and frequented by Hollywood stars – and more recently demonized as the world’s deadliest city – Ciudad Juárez is struggling to remake its image to its residents and the world.


Pedestrians on a new plaza in front of the Museum of the Revolution in Ciudad Juárez. Vehicle traffic once clogged this area but was redirected in an effort to make it more appealing to pedestrians. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

The city’s modest revival can be seen in the remodeling of storefronts downtown, along a newly created pedestrian avenue in the historic center, at the packed outdoor markets where locals shop for trendy clothes, in the crowds lounging around the city’s historic plaza on a sunny weekday morning.

Mayor Enrique Serrano says the city government has secured more than $225 million from the Mexican federal government for redevelopment projects to remake key areas of the city, most notably a planned rehabilitation of the shabby historic downtown, but also a new convention center and a hospital, road repairs, new street lamps, public pools and neighborhood parks, and a new rapid transit bus line.


Ciudad Juárez Mayor Enrique Serrano greets resident Julio Salazar during a news conference at which officials gave away 5-gallon buckets of paint for residents to use for neighborhood improvements. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Ciudad Juárez Mayor Enrique Serrano greets resident Julio Salazar during a news conference at which officials gave away 5-gallon buckets of paint for residents to use for neighborhood improvements. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Serrano finishes a sentence: The plans sound so ambitious “as if it was a lie.” Or as if the city now hopes to do all it could not do during the worst years of shootouts and massacres.

Changing how people see the city “is a question of time and work,” Serrano said.

He writes off public relations campaigns as creating “false expectations” but says he wants people to know the city is enjoying “relative calm, so that people come back, the Americans from Albuquerque who came to our restaurants, to our nightlife, to our markets.”

War and peace

Murders have dropped dramatically in a city known up until recently as the world’s most violent.
2010: 3,075
2011: 1,947
2012: 749
2013: 483

The traditional flow of visitors to Ciudad Juárez from New Mexico – of families traveling to reunite with relatives, of party-going college students looking for a good time, of tourists curious for a taste of Mexico so close to the U.S. – all but stopped as Mexico’s drug war heated up in 2006 and the city became a violent focal point.

In a three-year period through 2010, during which criminal organizations battled for control of this key entry point to the lucrative U.S. drug market, more than 10,000 people were killed in Juárez, according to Chihuahua state statistics. Widespread extortion and kidnapping financed a bloody turf war and drove tens of thousands of residents out of the city, many to towns in New Mexico and Texas.

Then, the mayhem began to subside.

 

Emiliano Varela releases a pigeon tangled in a piece of rope. Varela works as a portrait photographer in a plaza near the Juárez Cathedral. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Emiliano Varela releases a pigeon tangled in a piece of rope. Varela works as a portrait photographer in a plaza near the Juárez Cathedral. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Homicides dropped to under 500 last year from more than 3,000 in 2010 – a rate now comparable to some U.S. cities. Other crime indicators like kidnapping and extortion have plummeted.

Gateway to Mexico

Things have gotten good enough that the new city government plans an ambitious makeover of the historic downtown and a popular entertainment district known as the Pronaf, while the tourism department plans to hawk the news of Juárez’s recovery from El Paso to Santa Fe and Albuquerque, despite the mayor’s stated disinterest in marketing campaigns. A tourism outpost is planned for the El Paso Saddleblanket store on I-10.

“The objective is to transform the gateways to Ciudad Juárez, which are also the gateways to Mexico,” said Adrian Gonzalez Jaimes, secretary of tourism for the city. “The project downtown is about that, to help its resurgence and revival. It takes time.”


Not long ago, this area was very congested with traffic running from north to south making it very difficult for pedestrians to get around this historic neighborhood. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Not long ago, this area was very congested with traffic running from north to south making it very difficult for pedestrians to get around this historic neighborhood. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

The city may still have a long way to go, but its residents – and an adventurous few tourists – have returned to its markets and bars, malls and museums. That’s in part thanks to the success of the city’s first effort: convincing residents to shed their fears and return to their normal lives.

The city circulated a video last fall meant to rekindle residents’ pride in themselves and their troubled border city. The video – which opens with hard-working Juárenses rising at dawn and shows all the best aspects of the city’s industry and culture – made the rounds of social media.

“What happened in Juárez – no one was ready for that,” said Gonzalez Jaimes. “But I can tell you that today there are many more good things than the bad we had during that time. We have been working to raise consciousness with our people and the result is this: We have commercial corridors that are totally full on weekends. The nightlife that had basically stopped is back.”

Signs of life

Rich Wright, an El Paso-based writer, began advertising walking tours to Juárez a few months ago.

About his ad, he said, “I thought, ‘This will be a performance art piece.’ I was amazed when someone called.”

He has guided a handful of people on tours of Juárez’s history and its bars and says he is skeptical of the city’s urban renewal plans – of its ability to follow through and its commitment to preserving the city’s historical areas.


With the violence going down, some visitors are coming back to the city and that means a chance to shop in the Cuahtemoc Market for items such as medicinal herbs. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

With the violence going down, some visitors are coming back to the city and that means a chance to shop in the Cuahtemoc Market for items such as medicinal herbs. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

A seedy downtown district known as the Mariscal, famed for its bars and brothels, has been torn down. On a recent walk, Wright pointed to a small, newly paved square ringed by abandoned, half-demolished buildings – where there is no sign yet of new construction.

A few streets over, a different remodeling project offers a bright spot.

“You can no longer compare (Juárez today) with the turbulence, the chaos,” Carlos Rocha, an attendant at the Museum of the Revolution at the Border, says of the recovery.

Housed in the stately former Mexican customs building and remodeled in 2011, the white-walled galleries feature memorabilia of the life and times of Mexico’s revolutionaries, especially Pancho Villa. On Sundays, the museum hosts puppet shows for children.

On the newly paved pedestrian walkway of Avenida 16 de Septiembre, Joel Alberto Rivera manned a cart loaded with jugs of agua fresca – drinks of pineapple, cantaloupe and milky horchata. The city is building tunnels to push vehicles below ground in the congested downtown. People now stroll the wide avenue in peace.

“It’s just a few,” Rivera said, “but now you are starting to see tourists.”

Dead Baby found on the Navajo Reservation

Resident Franklin Mose peers into a culvert where a 13-month-old child was found Jan. 31 in Crystal. A mother and her child were left near the culvert late at night Jan. 30 after the mother got into a fight with a woman with whom she was riding in a truck, according to the woman’s uncle. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Jasper Peshlakai stands In front of his home atop a hill near Crystal on Thursday, recounting the story his niece told him about the niece’s kicking a mother and her 13-month-old child out of her truck. The child was found dead the next morning in a culvert. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Longtime Crystal resident Jerry Kee considers a reporter’s question in his home Thursday. Kee said a Navajo Nation police officer questioned him about the whereabouts of the Peshlakai family, who live near him, in connection with the child’s death. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Longtime Crystal resident Jerry Kee considers a reporter’s question in his home Thursday. Kee said a Navajo Nation police officer questioned him about the whereabouts of the Peshlakai family, who live near him, in connection with the child’s death. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

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CRYSTAL – Jasper Peshlakai’s niece stumbled through the door of his small house on top of a hill in the middle of the forest late at night last week, smelling of alcohol and nursing deep scratches down her arms.

 

Jasper Peshlakai stands In front of his home atop a hill near Crystal on Thursday, recounting the story his niece told him about the niece’s kicking a mother and her 13-month-old child out of her truck. The child was found dead the next morning in a culvert. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

The unexpected Jan. 30 visit from his niece, whom he hadn’t seen in around five years, became even more alarming when she told him that she had abandoned a woman and her 13-month-old child a couple miles down the hill, Peshlakai said. The niece told Peshlakai that she and the woman had gotten into a fight while drinking and driving on the way to visit her uncle, so she kicked the woman and the child out of her truck and continued up the hill to her uncle’s house.

Peshlakai said he urged his niece to go back down the hill and get the mother and her toddler.

“But she just kept changing the subject,” Peshlakai told the Journal on a chilly afternoon this week in the small Navajo Reservation town. “Next thing I know, she was tired and went to bed.”

Shortly after 7 a.m. the next morning, Jan. 31, the body of a young child was found in shallow, icy water in a metal culvert at the bottom of the hill. Most Crystal residents politely declined to say what they knew of the death, but several others described seeing a parade of local and federal law enforcement combing through the scene that morning, in addition to a woman seated on the dirt road, distraught and wrapped in blankets.

The FBI, which said it is continuing its investigation, has not released the names of the mother or her child. FBI officials said they have questioned the mother and are waiting for the results of an autopsy from the state Office of the Medical Investigator. A Navajo Nation Police Department captain, reached Friday, said he was not familiar with the case, and a Navajo Nation Department of Justice official said that the case will likely be prosecuted federally.

The cause of death has not been released, and it’s unclear whether the mother was ever arrested or just questioned.

A spokesman for the hospital at Fort Defiance told the Navajo Times that the mother of the victim was treated at the hospital’s emergency room. However, an emergency room employee reviewed hospital logs and told the Journal that the hospital had no patients the morning of Jan. 31 who could have been the mother. The hospital spokesman did not return repeated calls for comment.

Peshlakai said he told investigators about his niece’s visit and what she had said. He said the they were very interested in her whereabouts, but he didn’t know what to tell them. She has no phone, he said, and he doesn’t know where she has been living for the past five years. She was gone when he returned from a day trip to Gallup on Jan. 31, he said.

He also said he has no idea where his niece met the mother or where they were coming from, and he didn’t know whether the two were related or even friends. Temperatures in nearby Navajo, N.M., that night hovered just above freezing.

When asked whether he felt any blame or guilt about the child’s death, he said he has been running through scenarios in his mind since that night – but he just doesn’t know yet. He also said he doesn’t have a phone.

All of the Crystal residents who were willing to talk about the death said they don’t know who the mother was or where she was from. In the 2,000-population town, residents said, it’s pretty clear when someone is an outsider.

Word about the child’s death spread quickly through the town that morning.

Jacey McCurtian, president of the Crystal Chapter, told residents in a community meeting Jan. 31 not to speak of the case as the investigation runs its course, residents said. About a dozen residents approached by the Journal in the Crystal senior center and in remote homes dotting the hills in the area declined to comment about the death, often saying first, “I can’t say anything,” then later, “I don’t know anything.”

But a few were willing to briefly discuss what they saw.

Longtime Crystal resident Franklin Mose said he walked near the culvert on the morning of Jan. 31 and spotted what he thought was a white, shining rock inside the culvert that runs below the dirt road that leads up the hill. He later returned to see a flurry of police activity and learned that he had actually seen the child’s naked body, face down in the water.

By Thursday of this week, when a Journal reporter and photographer walked by, the creek had mostly frozen over. There was no sign that a child had died there less than a week earlier.

Another Crystal resident, Jerry Kee, who was born in a hogan on the same hill and lived on the same plot of land his whole life, said a Navajo Police Department officer knocked on his door last week, asking for the Peshlakai house.

He said his son, on his way to Gallup early Jan. 31, saw the mother sitting at the scene wrapped in blankets while police investigated. He did not know her, but stopped to talk to her briefly.

Just because the woman and her child were likely not from Crystal doesn’t diminish the tragedy, Kee said.

“It’s kind of really shocking,” Kee said. “It’s heartbreaking for all of us. It’s just a little baby.”

Pictures of the Year 2013

Just a few photos to summarize the past year. Looking forward to another.  Most if not all images were taken with either a NIKON D600 or FUJI XPRO1 camera. 

Proyecto Santo Nino

 

 

 

Story by Lauren Villagran/Journal

ANAPRA, Mexico – One frigid Saturday morning in a neighborhood at the rough edge of Ciudad Juárez, a cheerful group of mothers and children, many of them with special needs, gathered at a clinic founded and run by New Mexico’s Sisters of Charity.

A few mothers tended chiles and potatoes on the stove while the children played Candyland near an artificial Christmas tree, while others helped out feeding the youngsters who cannot feed themselves. Behind a curtain dividing the two-room clinic, mothers and one father performed the physical therapies the nuns have taught them, as they struggle – with spare resources – to care for their children with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism and other conditions.

Proyecto Santo Niño began in 2003 as a free health clinic where Dr. Janet Gildea, a Catholic sister and family practitioner, offered medical services to one of Juárez’s most troubled and impoverished areas. Over time, it evolved to specialize in providing physical therapy to poor families with special needs children, an especially needy group that is often underserved by Mexican health services. Today, the clinic serves some 30 families who flock there from all over the city.

“This is a very special place,” said Lucy Trejo de la Torre, whose daughter Nena suffers from a degenerative neurological condition, Lennox Gastault, and autism. “Because in Juárez, it’s very difficult to find therapies for our children. Why? Because they are very, very expensive. So you either eat or you go to therapy.”

How to help
Tax-deductible donations can be made out to the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati specifying “Proyecto Santo Niño” on the memo line and mailed to:
Sisters of Charity 260 Sombra Verde Anthony, NM 88021

Gildea and two other sisters, Carol Wirtz and Peggy Deneweth, teach the parents that they are the ones best-suited to perform the therapy – physical and sensory exercises, reiki and other therapeutic activities – because they know their children best, and they can practice what they learn at home.

“Sister taught us how to do physical therapies but also reiki,” Trejo de la Torre said. In reiki, practitioners place their hands lightly on or just above a person, with the goal of taking advantage of the person’s own healing response or energy.

“It’s been wonderful because it goes much deeper, and the children are very relaxed, very tranquil,” she said.

The morning’s high spirits and holiday cheer masked the week’s double tragedies. Just a few blocks away, a family held a wake for a special needs child who had died the day before. The children are so fragile, Gildea says. So is life in a city that until recently had been the central battleground of a brutal drug war and where the violence, although greatly reduced, continues. Another special needs child lost her father and cousin earlier that week to gunfire.

The concrete-block clinic had no running water when it opened a decade ago. Neither did many homes in Anapra, a settlement that has gradually become part of greater Juárez. The city eventually paved the main road and delivered basic services, although most offshoot roads are dirt and pocked with holes. Three days a week, the Sisters travel from La Union, N.M., in Doña Ana County, over the border and into Anapra.

Gildea says she founded the clinic to offer family medicine to the community, but that changed when a woman arrived with a severely underweight newborn, a “peanut-sized baby,” she said, with Down syndrome. The woman came again and again asking for help and advice on how to care for him.

“For him, we started the early infant stimulation,” Gildea said. “She would run into people with special kids and would say, ‘You need to take him to the nuns!’ So they started coming, and that’s how Santo Niño started here. It’s been just one amazing story after the next.”

The baby boy only lived to be 15 months old and weighed 10 pounds when he died – the kind of tragedy that prompts people to wonder, ” ‘Why does God allow this?’ ” said Gildea. “Well, his little life … He was the founder of this place that has taken care of so many more special kids. We’ve had several children who have died, but each one has brought a special thing to us and has done something with their little life, if only letting us give ourselves to help them.”

The spirit of the place

While brothers and sisters play on one side of the clinic, the therapy begins in the other room.

Juan Martinez Treviño, his 12-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son attend to Luis Pablo, who is 16 and suffers from a severe form of cerebral palsy. His arms and legs are thin as bone and, stretched out on a bed, he fills only half of it. The family prepares him for hydrotherapy: a relaxing dip and massage in the clinic’s hot water jacuzzi.

Trejo de la Torre pitches in, as does another mother, together lowering Luis Pablo into the water but holding onto him firmly. He cannot speak or walk or hold himself upright, but he grins and shrieks with joy in the bath.

In the opposite corner, three women – all mothers whose special needs children have passed – lay their hands on Oscar, a 3-year-old with an unidentified syndrome; his mother, Maria Eugenia Valverde Diaz, lost two previous sons to the same affliction. The women are quiet as they practice reiki, and Oscar dozes. Photos of their children who have passed are pinned on the wall beside them.

“We share the majority of the pain,” said Isidra Sanchez Herrera while feeding Oscar earlier that morning. “For those of us who have already gone through it … Since (my son) died, I felt worthless. We’re worth so much to them.”

That is the spirit of the place: All of the parents, most often the mothers, care for each other’s children and lean on one another for support.

“In a way, this place supplements the absence and failings of the state,” said Cristina Coronado, who began volunteering at the clinic during a battle with cancer. “If this space wasn’t here, there would be many families who would just be living in a country where the resources for health and education aren’t a priority.”

Trejo de la Torre says the Sisters “are the best thing that has happened in the mothers’ lives here, because they have taught us so many things. The therapy isn’t just for (the children), it’s for us, too.”

 

 

Fleeing New Mexico’s small, rural town

Story by Oliver Uytterbrouck

ROY – About the first thing anyone mentions here is the new 24/7 gas pump that Richard Hazen opened this summer on N.M. 39, Roy’s main drag.

The new credit card-operated pump is big news, because Hazen operates the only gas station in Harding County, which covers 2,126 square miles and is nearly 40 percent larger than Rhode Island.

“The 24-hour gas pump is a big deal,” said Hazen, 56, a retired superintendant of Roy schools. “I don’t need the money. I did this just to help the community.”

The gas pump is a big deal, because the nearest gas stations are 35 miles west in Wagon Mound, 45 miles north in Springer or 68 miles southeast in Logan.

A retired educator’s willingness to pump gas and fix tires helps explain why this high plains town of 234 has managed to survive decades of population losses, recurring droughts and economic setbacks dating back to the Dust Bowl.

But like other rural counties across the nation, the ones in northeastern New Mexico have had little success persuading young people to stick around after high school or to return after college.

Audra Rivera, 17, was Roy High School’s only senior when school resumed on Aug. 14.

“I really like it a lot, because I get a lot of one-on-one with my teachers,” Rivera said. “But it would be kind of nice to have some more kids in our school, like in my grade.”

Rivera laughed. Juniors are responsible for planning Roy High School’s prom, which meant she had to organize the event by herself this year.

Then, there was the problem of who would accompany her to the prom. “I had to have a lowerclassman help me out with that,” she said.

After graduation, Rivera plans to study early childhood development or psychology, possibly at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, but it’s unlikely that she will return to Roy after college.

The search for jobs prompted Rivera’s older brother to move to Santa Fe and her older sister to Pueblo, Colo. “Roy is a very good town to live in,” she said. “Everybody knows everybody. But to live here, it’s not that good because there are no jobs around here.”

Roy accounts for about a third of Harding County’s 695 residents, making it the most sparsely populated of New Mexico’s 33 counties.

Harding has lost population each decade since 1930. It lost 14 percent of its population from 2000 to 2010 – a rate exceeded only by Hidalgo County in New Mexico’s Bootheel, which lost 17.5 percent during the decade.

“A really big factor for a lot of these towns is a lack of young people,” said Terry Brunner, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rural development director for New Mexico. Many High Plains communities have good, small schools, but few jobs for graduates, he said.

‘Broken’ economy

Roy sprang to life in the first decade of the 20th century after the El Paso and Southern Railroad, later the Southern Pacific, drove a spur from Tucumcari to a Santa Fe railway siding north of Springer to transport coal from the Raton area.

The railroad opened the land to ranchers and farmers, swelling Harding County’s population to a peak of 4,421 in 1930, just before the Dust Bowl walloped Harding and other plains counties in eastern New Mexico.

The Southern Pacific halted train traffic through Harding after coal mining ended in Colfax County in the 1950s.

High plains counties, from De Baca north to Union and Colfax in New Mexico’s northeastern corner, once relied on industries such as ranching, farming, mining and railroads that have either died or are struggling, Brunner said.

“That economic system is just broken down,” Brunner said. “The question is, where do they go next?”

Strong family ties and a love of rural and ranching life inspires some to stay put despite hardships and a lack of job opportunities.

“I grew up with a bunch of kids around here that are gone now,” Harding County rancher Jeff Byrd said. “I honestly didn’t think that I would be the one who would come back.”

Byrd had a choice. The New Mexico State University graduate worked as an engineer at the Navajo Refining Co. in Artesia for 13 years. He returned to ranching after his father died in 2001, leaving his mother to run the family ranch by herself.

Drought

Repairing windmills ranks is one of Byrd’s least favorite jobs. And because Byrd has six windmills on his 4,500-acre ranch, he spends a lot of time at it. His most productive wind pump failed recently and repairing it meant pulling 275 feet of pipe out of the well casing.

“In the last year, some people’s wells have gone dry,” he said. “We’re fortunate, I guess.”

The wells provide water for his cattle stock ponds, but he needs rain to green up his pastures, the chief source of fodder for his cattle.

The multiyear drought has trimmed the size of Byrd’s herd to just 44 cattle, down from more than 100 head he has raised in better years. “Water is the limiting factor for how many cattle you can run,” he said.

Byrd’s predicament is common to ranchers across New Mexico, where the number of cattle has declined by more than half in recent years to an estimated 500,000 head, down from about 1.2 million in 2008.

Despite the hardships, ranching remains a mainstay of the high plains economy. Ranching income accounted for 40 percent of Harding County’s total personal income of $33.8 million in 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

By early July, drought had reduced Byrd’s ranch to an unbroken expanse of brown, dead grass. He planned to sell off all his remaining cattle, but several good rains later in the month returned green shoots to the land, allowing him to keep his small herd.

“You’ve got to live through it. Survive it,” he said. “You sell off the weak cows so you end up with a better herd. That’s the theory, anyway.”

Fortunately, Byrd has family support. His wife is a teacher and engineering consultant, and her income helps sustain the couple and their two young sons, ages 7 and 8.

“We couldn’t survive on this alone,” Byrd said of ranching. “Especially now, it just barely pays for itself.”

By now, Byrd had spent nearly an hour squatting in a hole, trying to unscrew a stubborn wellhead with a huge crescent wrench. In so doing, Byrd broke a length of PVC pipe, which would cost him additional time and repairs.

“This job usually takes three hours, and I made it longer by breaking that pipe,” he said.

Ranching is hard work, and this year it won’t pay much. So what keeps Byrd in the business?

“It’s a lifestyle choice,” he said. “It has become a cliché to say that, but it’s true. People that choose to do this are here because they enjoy it.”

New life

Local business owners point to small victories. Before Hazen began operating the Roy Fuel Stop on June 1, drivers could buy gas here for only a few hours a day Monday through Friday while an attendant was on duty.

“People had to beg for gas, basically, if they weren’t open,” Roy resident Jennifer Tompkins said. “It really hurt us.”

The hit-and-miss gas supply hurt Roy, because many motorists, particularly Texas tourists, use N.M. 39 as a shortcut to Angel Fire, Red River and other resort towns to the north.

“A lot of the tourists found out you couldn’t get gas in Roy, and people were getting stranded,” said Sandy Ray, owner of Ma Sally’s Mercantile, an antique store on N.M. 39. Word of the gasoline drought caused a slump in business as tourists shunned the route, she said. “We all felt it. Everybody did.”

Business picked up significantly after the 24-hour gas pump opened, said Ray, who opened her store in July 2011, selling items such as old tools, antique wheels, doors and burlap sacks for 85 consignees throughout Harding County.

“It’s been much more successful than I anticipated,” Ray said of her business, housed in a renovated century-old grocery store. In addition to walk-in business, Ray sells antiques on eBay, mostly during the winter months when the “caravan of Texans” tapers off.

She and other business owners revived the Roy Chamber of Commerce in October, and three new businesses opened here over the summer, including Hazen’s gas station, a used clothing and furniture store, and a fitness center.

The revived Chamber of Commerce “was like the fire that got everyone moving and shaking,” she said.

Family ties and the lure of small-town life prompt some to return to the area.

Chandra Gonzales, 26, was one of 12 in her graduating class in 2005. She graduated from New Mexico State University and married a man from Wagon Mound.

But her experience as a student teacher in Las Vegas, where she taught up to 24 elementary students in a class, convinced Gonzales and her husband that they should return to Roy to enroll their daughter in kindergarten.

Their 6-year-old daughter will be among eight children entering first grade this year at the Roy Community School.

“Roy is the place where I wanted her to grow up and go to school,” Gonzales said. “The people who are teaching my daughter, we have been friends for years. I feel there’s more of a family sense in the school.”