A story about those left behind by innovation in a divided America.
Aging brick facades wear bright murals like days old polish on manicured fingernails. Broken remnants, fractured chips. Vibrant designs too precious to remove. A reminder of the special event they were intended for, now a fading hope.
That hope haunts these streets.
The city’s first cause for celebration came in 1899 when the railroads chose the fledgling town for a station. Envy of its neighbors, the new prominence awarded Carrizozo the honor of the seat of Lincoln county, stolen from the city of the same name. Men had died here on the unforgiving Malpaís fighting Apaches, and each other, for lesser spoils.
Carrizozo’s ascent felt certain. Farmers and ranchers and local craftsman suddenly had access to markets across the nation. Passenger cars brought tourists to be amazed by the vast desert landscape, canvas for distant violet mountains, and glorious sunsets. These were the purple mountains majesty often promised then blocked by progress. Unspoiled yet a clear promise of growth.
Within a lifetime, that glory would be undone.
Technological advance wasn’t finished with the railroad. Diesel engines came and a less pressing need to be stopped and watered. Alongside the tracks came roads. Automobiles flooded the nascent arteries of the desert. Stops on the hard-scrabble plain? Optional.
Mining and logging operations dwindled. Industry migrated elsewhere. Tourists still came but Interstates siphoned off all but the most adventurous. The town struggled to survive.
Taming of what was once wild brought a settled peace. In Lincoln county’s mountains, recreation became their savior. Ski resorts and chalets tried to lure travelers from the smooth flowing arteries connecting urban centers.
An industry of hospitality assumed the throne. A low wage service economy replaced skilled tradesmen. Only those already wealthy saw their fortunes increase. Not everyone felt the boom.
In a new millennium, the husk of a town sought to make their own fortune. Carrizozo performed their own manicure, put on their formal wear, and let the ball come to them.