Santa Teresa, NM built on NAFTA, sweats it out in the desert. - Sarah Tory - High Country News - Thursday 2/22

Santa Teresa, NM built on NAFTA, sweats it out in the desert.
Sarah Tory
High Country News
Thursday 2/22


Most people who saw the Chihuahua Desert in their dreams would want to wake up as soon as possible. The sandy flatland that stretches from Southern New Mexico, across the border and deep into Mexico offers little for the eye to see, other than a vast blue sky above an occasional mesa in the distance, with lots of mesquite scrub in between.

But Jerry Pacheco has, for more than 30 years, dreamed of the desert and the border as the setting for a beautiful, bi-national boom town, a small city of parks and gardens and a central square that straddles the US-Mexican border and offers a common space to citizens of both countries.  Los Santos, he calls it, in his dreams and on the architectural plan he has commissioned.  Los Santos, the saints, saluting the pre-existing villages of San Jose and San Jeronimo in Mexico and Santa Teresa, New Mexico.

Santa Teresa is the town that is booming, although calling it a town is misleading because no one lives there. But already a lot of people work there, and in Jerry Pacheco’s dreams, there will soon be a lot more.  The hub of Santa Teresa and the heart of its economy is it official US-Mexican Port of Entry in Santa Teresa and hundreds of truckloads of goods like computers and car parts that move back and forth through the Santa Teresa checkpoint every day.

The Mexican Interstate highway 45 is nearby and so are I-10, the main east-west artery that ties together the American south from coast to coast, from Santa Monica, CA to Jacksonville, FL, and I 25, which goes North from I-10 at Las Cruces, NM to I 90, just south of the Montana-Wyoming State line. But what made the Santa Teresa dream a lot realer, a lot richer, was the opening in 2014 of a major rail link of the Southern Pacific Railway.

Driving this development have been aggressive marketing and state subsidies pushed by New Mexico’s Republican Governor Susana Martinez, which have attracted several big-time investors.  Now, real estate brokers say, a lot of money from El Paso that had been building east of the city, close to the Zaragoza Port of Entry, have started building west towards Santa Teresa.

But the boom and the dream are threatened by 2 ongoing nightmares…an ongoing shift in drug trafficking from marihuana to methamphetamine and fentanyl, both higher-value drugs than pot and tied to a much higher level of criminal violence…and President Donald Trump’s threat to tear up the real key to Santa Teresa’s survival, NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.



Growing up in Toronto, Sarah Tory devoured books on mountaineering, learned to ski on the modest yet icy slopes several hours away and became an avid rock climber and runner. The summers after her high school graduation in New Hampshire and freshman year at Williams College in Massachusetts, she returned to the Canadian Rockies, where she cleaned cabins at a lodge – and encountered grizzly bears.

Sarah, who recently completed her MFA from Columbia University in New York, has covered environmental issues for the English-language Santiago Times in Chile and worked on a documentary about mining in Peru. She and a friend once biked 5,000 kilometers through Argentina and Chile, ending in Argentina’ Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. “Ramona,” her trusty touring bike, accompanied her to Paonia, but her interest in a mountain bike is growing daily.



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