Thoreau, New Mexico

8 days before the election
Population: 1,749
2004 Election: Kerry 63%, Bush 36%, Other 1%
2008 Election: Obama 71%, McCain 28%, Other 1%
(map)

Is there a place for a hopeless place in an election about hope?

Thoreau, New Mexico is spelled like the philosopher, but spoken like the preposition. Surrounded by other worldly natural beauty, but also a place that one is far more likely to pass through, than to stay.

Thoreau has a quiet violence to it. The locals we spoke to called the town quiet. And indeed, the town that is split between a Navajo reservation and a neighborhood of Angelos and Latinos, misses all the noise of urban live being tucked miles from nowhere with no signs of industry or pollution.

But our brief stay was colored by stern warnings of after-hours muggings. Somehow gangs from LA have infiltrated Thoreau’s calm rural life. With a few notable exceptions the people we meet appear 20 years older than the given ages. The teens we spoke to ranged from airy agitated and red-eyed rebels to entirely furious nihilists. This is not the whole town, as we found serious citizens, too.

Unmistakable signs of a very cruel poverty mark the main drag: abandoned cars, houses and people. The decay is so severe in parts of the reservation, it’s tough to fathom that this place is a long day’s drive from the seductive second homes of Frisco or the credited excesses of Vegas.

No matter how much hope and change is offered, it’s depressingly tough to see a president, any president, accomplishing enough to make an impact in Thoreau.

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