Culture Clash: Environmental Politics in New Mexico Forest Communities, 1970-2000

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9781632930057: Culture Clash: Environmental Politics in New Mexico Forest Communities, 1970-2000

The Culture Clash story begins in the 1970s in the village of Placitas, New Mexico at the north end of the Sandia Mountains, where author Kay Matthews built a house and began a family while involved in disputes with the Forest Service over forest management and with real estate developers bent on gentrification. It then moves to El Valle, a land grant village of 20 families at the base of the Pecos Wilderness, where she and her family moved in the early 1990s seeking a more rural life. Here, during the rest of that decade and into the 2000s, the small villages of el norte were engaged in battles on numerous fronts: protecting the integrity of traditional acequias; guaranteeing the rights of community-based foresters and ranchers to access public lands; addressing the long standing grievances of the loss of land grants; and maintaining the rural nature of communities through appropriate economic development. As a journalist documenting these struggles, and as a norteno living la lucha, Matthews weaves together a personal narrative and political analysis of a complex and dynamic rural New Mexico.

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About the Author:

Kay Matthews is a freelance journalist and editor of La Jicarita, an online journal of environmental politics. She and her partner Mark Schiller started La Jicarita in 1996 as the print newspaper of a watershed watchdog group. The paper soon expanded to investigate environmental and social justice issues all over northern New Mexico. She lives on a farm in El Valle where she raised two children, grows fruit, vegetables, and pasture hay, and served as an acequia commissioner for many years.


The tone of Kay's memoir is passionate but tactful and fair. She advocates for the community but allows the issues and characters to speak for themselves. The prose style is practical, the story easy to read. New Mexicans, who have a passion for el norte and noreños, will find this book a mouthwatering home-cooked dish prepared by loving hands with vegetables from Kay's garden. Culture Clash, despite the dismal and frequent defeats of the activists and defenders of the community gives one hope because of the noble and generous spirits, neighbors with good hearts, who couldn't be bribed or intimidated. Her neighbors and colleagues remind me of Kay herself; independent, principled, an activist and plain-spoken advocate.--Bill Whaley, Taos Friction 

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