WOW! Mayor of Española Speaks out after Gov Grisham Singles out his City

Javier Sánchez, Mayor of Española, New Mexico

Op-Ed – Española Mayor to Governor: We Deserve Better (originally published by the Northern New Mexico Independent)

The City of Española has endured, absorbed, and defended itself from stereotypes for decades. So it is with great reason that we stand now and say no more. When choosing which city to chastise during Thursday’s health order address, the Governor did a great disservice to the hard-working people of Española.

The display of superiority in that address shows only callousness and dismissive arrogance.  Are we truly to believe that the Governor slowed down enough to see into our dark tinted windows to find no masks hanging from rearview mirrors?  

At this rate of condescension, I would be very surprised if the Governor’s vehicle even slowed down to a rolling stop at the red lights.  How empty those words sound coming from behind the windows of an air-conditioned vehicle while peering in at us like we are children who haven’t cleaned our rooms.  

Like so many others, the Governor has chosen to stroll by Española and make blanket assumptions about our people.  To say that we have to work harder goes without saying.  Every loss of life due to COVID-19 is tragic.  We must do everything we can to prevent it.  But if we are to take the higher road—one paved in science—then we must hold true to the parameters set forth by the method.  

Using anecdotal evidence to say that “no one was wearing masks” and conclude that we’re careless tells a story clouded by prejudice and falsehood.  The Governor chose to make assumptions about the true Española at a superficial glance.  

Yes, people were witnessed going to their vehicles from the grocery store and gas station without masks.  But no mention was made of whether they had them on within a close distance to others.  Or whether the stores required masks.  Those observations would actually require someone to step out of their vehicle and into our friendly town.  

My friends at Center Market, Food King, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Walmart, and every other place I know of in Espanola ensure that customers wear masks when entering places of business.  But did the Governor deign to stop and visit any places of business, worship, or friendship?  Apparently not, because according to her address, she continued on her way “through” Española to some other place in Northern New Mexico—perhaps to some better destination?  

Cherry-picking anecdotal evidence to draw generalized conclusions makes a mockery of our beautiful city.  We deserve better. 

Here is the science:  The County of Rio Arriba has currently performed 15,148 tests.  Of those, 353 people have tested positive for COVID-19, or .84% of the population.  Unfortunately, our Jicarilla members have suffered with a majority of those positive numbers.  If you remove those, Rio Arriba has 129 positive cases.  That is .32% of the population.  

Española’s Presbyterian Hospital currently has zero patients admitted for COVID.  That deserves to be repeated:  Zero patients currently in a hospital that serves approximately 40,000 citizens in the county of Rio Arriba.  Science should be one component in the decision-making process.  

Stay home if you feel susceptible.  Always keep at least a six-foot distance from people not in your immediate bubble.  When that is not possible, wear a face covering.  Respect each other and love each other.  Work hard to make a living.  Work hard to make a community.  And work hard to protect each other because this virus isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  

And yes, we in Española work hard.  Very hard.  My friend, a teacher at Tony E. Quintana Elementary School works 12-16 hours a day trying to keep her students alive.  She is on the phone with parents most of the time getting them logged on.  Exhausted, she thrives.  

An employee I know has to switch shifts at the restaurant she works at, doing everything she can to make sure her 8-year-old son logs on before she goes to work—never knowing whether her mother will keep him on-line.  The shaming of Española by the Governor adds to the stigma that exacerbates our need.

Leadership ought to project pride.  We ought to prefer lifting up those who need it the most rather than continuing to embarrass those who have seen it before.  Shaming only makes worse our long-held belief that we’re not worthy.  But we know better.  

Like I said, we’ve heard the stereotypes before.  We define the word resilient.  We are low riding, paño-wearing, aqua-net-infused, farmers, hermanos, and just plain, plebe.  

But we are proud, honest, smart, hard-working people who should not be made an example of on a joy ride through Northern New Mexico.  To see anything less than the hard work we put in is to ignore the humanity, love, and community that is Española.  

Defending our honor and people is my privilege.  It should be our Governor’s too.  

Javier Sánchez

Mayor, City of Española

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