Most of the time I am taking photographs of the beautiful scenery in New Mexico, but when we travel to Pajarito Mesa things change a bit. Today I spent the afternoon in the west mesa, and I don't know why it is, but I get this compelling sense of urgency to drive myself to the area for pictures.

Last Wall Standing
At first glance Pajarito Mesa appears to be a placed dislodged from some third world country, the little dirty secret in the backyard of metropolitan Albuquerque .

The Sand in the Desert
Far away from the Mexican border the Pajarito Mesa lacks essential services like roads, electricity and emergency services. Perhaps the most pressing need for the 1,080 predominately Mexican residents is one that many people take for granted – water.

Death in the West Mesa
Pajarito Mesa is just south of Dennis Chavez or Rio Bravo and is in the un-incorporated area of Bernalillo county. It is isolated yet scattered with debris of every imaginable kind one can think of.

While there, on the edge of a distant cliff, I saw two men taking target practice with handguns and what appeared to be an assault rifle. As I drove away I could hear the popping sound of automatic gun fire sending waves and echoing across the vast smooth layer of sand on the desert floor.

On the West Mesa

Just north, on the other side of Dennis Chavez, is the edge of the city of Albuquerque with new paved roads and fast moving development engulfing the desert floor. This is the place where recently a lady walking her dog made a gruesome discovery. A human bone partially buried in the sand.

To this date they have found the remains (bones) of at least 12 females and a fetus burried in the sand. Then there was that day last week when I was sent to this same crime scene on the west side to dig for bones, it is labeled the largest crime scene in New Mexico history.

Of the 12 bodies found buried in the west mesa two have been identified: Michelle Valdez, top left, and Victoria Chavez, bottom left. Valdez's first trimester fetus was among the remains found.

Albuquerque police are preparing for what they say could be the biggest homicide investigation in the city's history as investigators look into who buried bodies -- 13 so far, including a first trimester fetus -- in the ground in a wide expanse of desert mesa.

I sat there for a few minutes pondering about the life and death on this part of the west mesa. Then the winds started blowing lifting the sand to expose hidden debris and moving it to the side covering other exposed debris. Such is life on the edge of the city we call the west mesa.

Sand in the West Mesa

Views: 999

Comment by Barelas Babe on March 16, 2009 at 8:18pm
Wonderful photography.
Comment by JeSais on March 16, 2009 at 9:39pm
stunning photos.
Comment by Dan Ehrig on March 17, 2009 at 8:53am
Are some of these photos using extended exposure or HDR? The sky looks very eerie.
Comment by cathyray on March 17, 2009 at 11:59am
as usual, your photos have taken my breath away.
Comment by Tricross on March 17, 2009 at 2:43pm
Love the photos. Does anyone still use print film? I can stand to part with my print film cameras but feel I must to take the plunge into high end digital photography.
Comment by LopsidedMom on March 17, 2009 at 3:18pm
Amazing photos.

I got this email today - there is a community clean-up this weekend if anyone is interested.

Residentes de Pajarito Mesa
El Condado ha programado una limpieza de basura para el día

Sábado 21 de marzo de 8:00am a 12:pm

Por lo que se va a necesitar la cooperación de todos los que vivimos en la comunidad de Pajarito Mesa El condado nos Ayudara con los tambos para la basura, y el tractor para levantar lo que este muy pesado por lo que los residentes necesitan traer su pala y rastrillo. (Opcional Si le es posible traer unas aguas o algo para poder ofrecer a todos los que andemos trabajando y voluntarios de afuera) También necesitamos la ayuda de todos para identificar áreas de concentración de basura Nos reuniremos en la loma a las 7:30 Gracias .

Residents of Pajarito Mesa comunity
The County has Schedule a Pajarito Mesa Clean-up for Saturday March 21st from 8:00am to 12:pm Therefore we need all residents support to make this a success

County will provide us with the dumpsters and a front loader so residents need to bring your shovel and a rake. (Optional, if you can possibly bring water or something to offer to the people that will be volunteering from outside of the community.) We also need the help from residents to identify areas that are being dumped with trash. We will be gathering at the top of the hill at 7:30 AM.

Thank you. If you need more information please call Mireya @ #980-9746 or Sandra @ #550-9958
Comment by Deanna Nichols on March 18, 2009 at 6:21pm
This is great Alex. I saw these photos on Flickr, but didn't read the whole story. Nice work!
Comment by Joel Deluxe on March 18, 2009 at 10:01pm
Good story with some incredible photos
Comment by Pete Gomez on March 19, 2009 at 8:17am
Thank you for both the story and the pictures. That HDR is wonderful.


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