Blight battle: Some ‘used to’ blight

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson Paula and Jesse Baca said a lot has changed since they moved to the 200 block of Cameo Street a half-century ago. “We had a nice neighborhood at one time,” Paula Baca said. “Everything started falling apart when our neighbors left.”

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

U.S. 60/84 connects Cannon Air Force Base to Clovis and Texas.

The road is also called First Street, Grand Avenue and Mabry Drive in places.

Its nickname is the “The Trail of Tears” — an allusion to the emotional reaction from a first visit to Clovis full of caved-in buildings and yards where nature is winning the fight.

“I have had wives (particularly military wives) sit there with their husbands that have literally cried because that’s what they think all of Clovis looks like,” said longtime Realtor Max Watt. “Until they see another part of town, they think Clovis is going to look like what they’ve seen.”

Clovis natives also can see the blight — “they’re just used to it,” Watt said.

Count Tatiana Tafoya among those used to the surroundings.

Tafoya grew up on the 200 block of Gamma Street near West Second. A long unused and boarded up building called Bosco Hall separates her family home from First Street. She sees it as a positive.

“It blocks the wind,” she added, “and keeps away most of the dirt that blows.”

Still, neighbors would like to see that property and others gain new life.

Dolores Chavez lives in a small house across from the Tafoya family. She remembers Bosco Hall as a place to play pool and pingpong, and attend dances organized by neighborhood parents.

“I would love for it to reopen and get the kids out of the street,” she said. “You wouldn’t have all of the kids getting into (trouble).”

Others remember Bosco Hall and the neighborhood before deterioration occurred.

The 200 block of Cameo Street near Grand Avenue wasn’t in this shape when Jesse and Paula Baca moved in a half-century ago.

“We had a nice neighborhood at one time,” Paula Baca said. “Everything started falling apart when our neighbors left.”

When one former neighbor came back to see where he grew up, Jesse Baca said, it was difficult.

“He almost cried,” Jesse Baca said. “He said, ‘My God, what happened?’ I said, ‘Welcome to Cameo.’”

Now, the home where the Bacas raised four sons abuts homes with water heater skins for fences, garbage in some front yards and cactus plants strewn across front yards.

“I think the city should charge them more for their sewer and garbage,” Jesse Baca said, “but we’d get the bad end of that stick too.”

One neighbor, Mario Sandoval, said he’s never received complaints from the city, and he and his wife are happy with their home. Sandoval said he is disabled, but some family has helped him pick up his place every now and then.

As far as city beautification efforts, Paula Baca said efforts seem to have missed their block of Cameo Street. The couple just took ownership of a vacant home at 213 Cameo St., but they figure they could spend a fortune in renovations and still never find a buyer.

“We talk about beautifying our city,” Paula Baca said. “There’s no sense in killing ourselves because (neighbors) won’t do it.”