Since the ’70s, people have been homesteading on the mesa near Albuquerque, just south of the proposed Santolina development. Bernalillo County says without official roads and permits, these Pajarito Mesa structures are illegal, but families are fighting to keep their homes.
Scattered across Pajarito Mesa’s 18 thousand acres are gutted trailers, piles of tires battered by the sun and sandy dirt trails. Somewhere around 800 people are making a go of it here, despite the lack of modern conveniences like running water or an electrical grid. But there’s another side to the mesa.