UN Commision on the Status of Women 2005

Transcript of Interview with Anita LaRan, Executive Director of Helping Hands and Mujeres Unidas in Mora, New Mexico


Anita LaRan: I completely rebuilt the kitchen at Helping Hands and they have a commercial kind of kitchen now. We have a wood working shop in the back and every time we turn around they want to borrow the equipment out of there and I kept saying “no.”  I know that if we are not there and they take those things and take them home then you will never see them again.  The organization will not have anything and it is the community you’re building and the staff that we have there. Not the key staff, because we get a lot of staff that we get thorough grants that come and go, but key staff that have been there forever. They are just as protective of everything as I am, because they have been there, taken care of it, and the see what it took to get it.  I think mainly to remember what you didn’t have when you first started.  Then you see if they leave, then somebody who does not care comes just like them and just wants to take.  Because the only time some of the board members come is to go to dinner and when they want something.  It is sad, isn’t it? And it is amazing how it is the same as different places and the way that it is.  But what scares me the most is that you guys have been to Taos.  You know how it has been taken over, people move in, and the natives there are really off by the sides and they are the ones that are paying the consequences because of high taxes, land values, and everything. 

When I first started at Helping Hands and I started listening to and reading what was going on in the country and other places, I thought that we still have time to control land and community aside from what the government has taken from us—our land grants and all that stuff. But as far as what goes on in the community, we lose community, because all the people there are bigger.

What do you mean bigger?

A: Schools, school boards to local government, and everything.  We are surrounded by all these people from California and Texas that bought all these mountain sides and like that big range—I think it is a 6 million dollar range—that they bought. All that does is bring up the tax base in the community.  They are going to squeeze us out of there just like everybody in San Jose and all those places. 

When they get squeezed out, where do they go?

A: What I’m saying is that now, every year our taxes are doubling, so people who are living there—natives that are of the community and are on fixed incomes, or have seasonal jobs around the community—pretty soon can’t afford that. Then where do they go? Even moving in the city you can’t rent in a good neighborhood with that money especially if you don’t have an education.

And it is also the life that you had, the life that you had in the country.

They are squeezed out by the people that come in and have money, and since those people control the tax base and watch anything happening in the tax, [they control] the property tax situation. They see something that is going to be foreclosed on, and they buy it; they buy it for a nickel, and then the homeowner that has maybe had the place forever and ever is out.  They might go live somewhere in a mobile home park, that is, if they can afford that.  We had people living on riverbeds in Cherokee County.

We have other people living with other family members in the community because they are paying the taxes for somebody else to come over or something. It has caused people to go into the worst poverty and homelessness; it creates another sub-class.

And there’s no relief because it’s not that they are somewhere that it is not happening.

A: Even now at the legislature they are introducing, I received an email saying that they are going to cut Medicare funding by 15 million, which would in essence lack of the 55 million cut because of the federal dollars that have amounted to that.  The elderly and disabled people have already been cut off from their medication and everything, and now they are cutting some more from those people.  Those are some of the people in our communities that our families are taking care of. In our communities, people are not putting them in nursing houses. The families take care of them, and now they get little compensation for taking care of the elderly.  With all these cuts they are not going to get that anymore.

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