Seventeen-year-old climate activist Artemisio Romero Y Carver has the androgynous features of an aristocratic youth one might see pictured in the National Gallery, intense and unsmiling–jet black hair, broad forehead, sensitive intelligent eyes, and full lips brimming to speak monstrous truths, part Oscar Wilde, part Langston Hughes. Truths about the climate future bearing down on his generation, and more personally, concerning the hellscape of extreme poverty on Santa Fe’s south side, where he has lived half his childhood “among the people who do not bring in the tourist dollars, where the people are not represented by our government.”
Furthest away from the historic downtown plaza and amenities like parks and teen rec centers, it’s the part of Santa Fe decidedly not at risk for gentrification. The families that live in the mobile homes, apartments and townhouses in the poorer tracts are survivors from several persistent waves of gentrification since the 1970s. Or they’re first generation immigrants from south of the border. Per U.S. census data, a third of the south side’s roughly 4,000 people are living below the federal poverty line, and the remainder are not wealthy, at least not materially. The zip code encompassing the south side has been testing highest by far for COVID infection, with more positives than the other four zip codes in Santa Fe County combined.
Romero Y Carver is a poet, and in his work, he illustrates common experiences of growing up in poverty–an unheated home in the wintry cold of the high desert, or baking his own cakes for his dinner meal, at times with no milk–an ersatz life with his desperately unhappy mother who holds him close in her arms and whispers: “You don’t deserve love.” To cope he trains his mind on inventorying the details of his reality. In Vanilla Extract, he writes of the:
…cheap lock, the only protection I’ve got…me and the dogs sound the same when we whimper…my room is a meat locker…my reflection looks back at me and I still can’t convince him that I’m not just her victim…
Read the article at Current Affairs