Despite the difficulty of the subject, the real value of recent letters to the editor about alcoholics in Parque de Vida is that we are openly discussing some painful aspects of our common life. Perhaps if we continue - carefully - we can find creative ways to deal with these issues of alcoholism, public safety and prejudice.
Regarding our prejudices, it is important to know that many of the alcoholics in our parks are non-Natives. However, Cortez is one of several border towns in the Southwest which surround the Ute, Navajo and Hopi reservations, and which deal with similar aspects of alcoholism. Because the sale of alcohol is prohibited on the reservations, alcoholic people congregate in the border towns like Cortez, the only places where they can buy alcohol. Gallup and Farmington - the other border towns - have implemented initiatives to deal with the problems described by Cortez citizen Keane in a recent letter. Farmington formed a Community Relations Committee.
Because all inebriated people sleeping in Parque de Vida are vulnerable to beatings - and also to freezing to death in cold weather - our community has responded with creation of the Bridge Shelter. Also, the Human Relations Coalition was formed in 2007, after several beatings of Native Americans in Parque de Vida, and a large public response including other minority groups. The Coalition tries to prevent incidents of racial and cultural discrimination in Montezuma and Dolores counties against all minority groups, in jobs, schools, law enforcement and daily commerce. The Coalition was established to provide a community forum for hearing complaints and for their peaceful resolution.
We meet on the second Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. in the public room of the First National Bank, across from Walmart. Our next meeting is thus on Wednesday, April 10. A local anthropologist, Fred Blackburn, will speak on his research into the history of violence against Native Americans in this area. All are welcome.