Gallup residents deal with life under lockdown
GALLUP — Life under a lockdown has not changed much for Gallup resident John Lewis Taylor.
While he misses visiting the Octavia Fellin Public Library, going to movie theaters and attending events like the monthly arts crawl, he has adjusted to staying at home by working on projects and taking daily walks with his wife.
"All of that is pretty much something that's missed, that socializing city life," Taylor said.
Residents in Gallup, like elsewhere in New Mexico, have been under orders to stay at home to mitigate transmission of the coronavirus.
While Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has relaxed some restrictions in the state, she authorized last week a lockdown for Gallup due to the high number of positive cases for COVID-19 in McKinley County.
The governor's decision was based on a request on April 30 for a state of emergency for the municipality by new Mayor Louis Bonaguidi and former Mayor Jackie McKinney.
The lockdown was originally scheduled to end on May 4, but Bonaguidi sought an extension on May 3 for three additional days.
Lujan Grisham granted the second extension to noon on May 7, which limits access to the city by non-residents, restricts travel by residents and closes businesses from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.
"I haven't been out to look and see what the local roads are like. I don't know how it's being obeyed by anyone else. I noticed my neighbors haven't been going anywhere and I don't hear that much traffic," Taylor said.
Last year Taylor published, "Navajo Scouts During the Apache Wars," a book about Navajo men who served as scouts for the U.S. Army in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The ongoing health crisis has him reevaluating how to promote the book.
"I miss doing the book signings," Taylor said.
Employee: Checkpoint part of process to get to work
The Gallup Senior Center has transitioned its meal services to delivery only due to the closure of its building on the north side of the city.
Bernice Dawes, a bus driver at the center, lives outside of Gallup and has been entering the municipality through a checkpoint operated by the New Mexico State Police on the west side.
"When we come in, we have to show our badges to show that we're workers," she said.
Dawes chuckled when explaining that a plus side to the lockdown is less traffic to navigate, but she is worried over the well-being of the elderly.
"I'm worried but the thing is that, we have to do this. It's strange," she said about the restrictions.
Martin Link is among those who receive meals from the senior center. Before the facility closed to the public, he drove there from his home in the south area of Gallup.
"That was the biggest change in my lifestyle," Link said. "I've always enjoyed driving down to the senior citizens center for lunch and a little bit of socializing during the day time."
City, county art scene continues to struggle
Gallup prides itself on art and the artists who reside in the city and the county.
Rose Eason is executive director for gallupARTS, a nonprofit arts council serving northwest New Mexico, and lives in the city.
The implementation of the stay at home order, and now the lockdown, has taken a toll on the arts community, Eason said adding one in four residents of McKinley County makes at least part of their living through the arts.
"When our creative economy suffers the way it is, that means families are suffering," she said.
A survey conducted by gallupARTS, showed that Gallup area artists are losing and average of $1,200 in monthly income because of loss sales and opportunities to earn money from area and regional art events, she said.
Eason added many artists struggle to sale online because they lack internet access and technology at home.
The organization closed its Art123 Gallery and LOOM Indigenous Art Gallery in downtown Gallup and cancelled various art shows, classes and workshops to comply with state public health orders.
"Like a lot of things, the art scene has come to a grinding halt," she said.
To address the crisis, gallupARTS started the "Local Artist Support Fund" to provide small grants to artists in the Gallup area to help with living expenses and administered other measures to help artists.
"Those applications have been telling and artists are talking about how they're feeling. How their art is allowing them to process the chaos and interpret it," Eason said.
"They're staying creative, which is good. They're able to process what we're all going through in ways that I think will be helpful to everybody," she said.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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