MISSION: Southwest Research and Information Center is a multi-cultural organization working to promote the health of people and communities, protect natural resources, ensure citizen participation, and secure environmental and social justice now and for future generations

Revisiting Ganados del Vall

The inspiration for this issue of Voices from the Earth started out quite simply - a phone conversation with Maria Varela, which led to a discussion of a possible article on Ganados del Valle (Workbook readers will remember Ganados del Valle from the feature "Revitalizing Hispanic and Native American Communities: Four Examples," Volume 14, No. 1, January-March 1989) She had written a chapter on Ganados for inclusion in a new book entitled: Across the Great Divide: Explorations in Collaborative Conservation and the American West. Maria's article focuses on difficulties Ganados faced as a community-based organization developing economic opportunities for a primarily Hispanic, low-income community, and the role environmental groups played in these struggles. We were interested in her point of view regarding this issue, and are pleased to reprint her chapter beginning on page 3.

We also decided to revisit some of the other people who have shaped Ganados del Valle. One was Antonio Manzanares, Ganados co-founder and owner-operator of Shepherd's Lamb (see article on page 6). The other was Arlene Valdez, the current Executive Director of Ganados (see "Ganados del Valle Today," page 5). The goal was to bring The Workbook article up-to-date, as well as provide readers with information on the current activities of Ganados and Shepherd's Lamb. We hope their stories interest you, and encourage you to support these and other local, community-based businesses.

The following is some basic information on Ganados del Valle's history:

  • 1983, Ganados del Valle was founded by Maria Varela and Antonio Manzanares to provide economic development for the community of Los Ojos, New Mexico. The first business created under Ganados was Tierra Wools, which makes and sells woolen articles (blankets, yarn, etc.). Ganados also promoted the development of small-scale growing of sheep to provide wool for Tierra Wools.
  • On August 18, 1989, Ganados del Valle gained notoriety from an illegal occupation of the Humphries Wilderness Area west of Chama with 1,000 head of sheep. This occupation resulted after negotiations to attain grazing permits for their sheep failed. The occupation gave them national exposure for an issue that was primarily of local interest.
  • In 1990, Maria Varela became the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in the amount of $305,000. This Fellowship was spread out over the course of five years and enabled Maria to continue her work in Ganados while providing for her and her family's well-being.
  • On January 1, 1997, Tierra Wools, Ganados' flagship business became its own self-supporting, worker owned business. Tierra Wools continues to prosper independently, with sales close to $500,000 per year.
  • Also in 1997, Maria Varela stepped down as Executive Director of Ganados del Valle. She continues to work on various projects for Ganados.
  • Around this time, Antonio Manzanares also left the organization. Antonio now focuses on his family business, Shepherd's Lamb.
  • In 1999, Arlene Valdez was hired as the new Executive Director. Arlene originally started working for Ganados in 1996 as an accountant.

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"We support the land, people and culture of New Mexico. Our focus is to find out from the people what they love to do and use that to boost their economies. A goal is to bring some unity and equity and to level out the playing field within the arena of economic development for the local population"
-- Terri Bad Hand
Taos County Economic Development Corp.

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