Home > Our World > News > News Archives by Date > 2011 > September 2011 > News - September 2011
How did Pajarito Mesa happen?


5:00 P.M. ET Sept. 22, 2011

The story of Pajarito Mesa, a 30-minute drive south of Albuquerque, N.M., and home to about 350 families, is complicated.

The residents of Pajarito Mesa have lived on a dusty plateau with no streets, no mail, no electricity and no running water for 25 years, said resident and community organizer Luz Maldonado.

“The majority of (the residents) have purchased the land in good faith,” Michael Gallagos said. “Most of the sellers are the ones who sold land in bad faith.”

Gallagos is a code-compliance community relations officer for Bernalillo County, which encompasses Pajarito Mesa and Albuquerque.

He said the mesa, which covers about 18,000 acres, is zoned for grazing. Years ago, the mesa’s owner sold much of the land for oil and gas exploration. But that never materialized. Instead, the new owners were stuck with property they thought was useless.

To recoup losses, the owners began offloading property to the area’s newest arrivals — struggling immigrants from Mexico. The immigrants were not familiar with real estate law or the correct procedures for obtaining building permits, Gallagos said.

“When they purchased a piece of the American dream, they weren’t aware that there were all these other complications,” he said. “They were led to believe that eventually, if enough people get up there, people will get the basic infrastructure that a small community needs.”

However, no development happened. Many residents now live in shacks or dilapidated buildings. No one has a building permit.

The county is trying to create a master plan for the area with major landholders, Gallagos said.

Figuring out who actually owns the land has proven challenging, he said. Some residents thought they were buying property when they were only renting. Others bought property from people who had no title to the land.

The county recently installed a pipeline to the mesa for a water fill station, a sort of water ATM where people prepay for the water they haul. Albuquerque Public Schools also provides a school bus at the top of the mesa for the community’s youngsters.

Gallagos said the next step is to replace the community’s unmarked, dirt tracks with the kind of roads that show up on a map. “Without roads,” he said, “nothing else can follow.”

Maldonado, who has lived at Pajarito Mesa for 11 years, is optimistic about the community’s future. Along with other residents, she has established the Pajarito Mesa Community Initiative to work with the county, real estate companies and others in planning the community.

“This is a great opportunity,” she said.

In the meantime, she said, churches and pastors like the Rev. Lourdes Calderón have provided critical aid to the mesa’s residents.

“Churches contribute a lot to this process,” Maldonado said. “They have made an effort to unite the community. Rev. Calderón helped us realize there are people willing to help, that we’re not alone.”

*Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service.

News media contact: Heather Hahn, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

Comments will be moderated. Please see our Comment Policy for more information.
Comment Policy

Commenting Rules

Comments will not appear until approved by a moderator, which will occur at least twice daily.

Please keep your comments brief. Avoid personal attacks and do not use inflammatory or demeaning language.

See our Comment Policy for more information.

Glad you liked it. Would you like to share?

Sharing this page …

Thanks! Close

Add New Comment

  • Image

Showing 0 comments

Ask Now

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.


*InfoServ ( about ) is a ministry of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add this address to your list of approved senders.

Would you like to ask any questions about this story?ASK US NOW