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Week of 03/09/11 - Vecinos

By Joe Contreras


A Mexican love affair

Vail loves Mexican visitors and Mexicans love to visit, ski and invest in Vail. Upscale Mexican tourists have been coming to Vail since the 1960ĺs and the resort recognizes them as one of its most loyal clientele.

Local business owners told The Glenwood Springs Post Independent that up to 60 percent of their December business came from Mexican customers. ôWhen the Mexicans come they stay for weeks and like to eat and shop,ö they told the Post.

There are travel agencies in Mexico that have sent thousands of tourists to Vail according to Pat Barrett, the international public relations manager for Vail Resorts. Likewise, Vail Resorts also maintains a presence in Mexico sending U.S. employees to Mexico throughout the year letting Mexicans know Vail is open and appreciates their business. Vail is even offering a first of its kind Spanish-language night camp for children. Called, Campamento de Monta˝a, it is Vailĺs way of extending its welcome mat to Mexican guests.

Just last year Alejandro and Matilde Marti of Mexico City bought the failing Vail Plaza Hotel and turned it into an overnight success, which was evidenced by the recent stay of first lady Michelle Obama and her children. Mexican families have also purchased several luxury units in the recently opened Solaris Residences in Vail. ôTheyĺre buying stuff up left and right,ö said one business owner.


Not so fast governor

Officials at the Fort Lyons Correctional Facility in southern Colorado are hoping to put the brakes on part of Gov. John Hickenlooperĺs cost cutting express. The governor wants to shut down the prison claiming it will save the state $6.3 million a year and would help reduce the $1.1 billion budget shortfall the state now faces.

But leaders from southeastern Colorado say shutting down the prison would be devastating to the Bent County area. It is the countyĺs second largest employer in an area that has struggled economically for years and is plagued by poverty levels of nearly 40 percent.

After visiting the prison and talking with county officials and prison employees Hickenlooper said he will take another look at the idea and see if the facility could be repurposed. The facility was originally a veteranĺs hospital before it was converted in 2001.

Fort Lyons is about 90 miles east of Pueblo along U.S. 50. More than 30 percent of its population is Latino.


Colorado small towns disappearing

While Coloradoĺs population grew by nearly 17 percent several rural counties and the small towns that make them up saw a significant drop in residents. According to the 2010 Census 17 of Coloradoĺs 64 counties lost population over the last decade. Counties along the stateĺs eastern border like Sedgwick, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Prowers and Baca each lost at least 10 percent of their population. In southern Colorado Huerfano and Mineral counties also lost more than 10 percent of their residents, as did Lincoln County.

Small towns like Hugo saw 17 percent of their people leave. The town once had a population of 8,200. It now is called home by only 730 residents.

Most of those leaving are doing so in search of jobs. Scarce water and expensive land has made agricultural life nearly impossible and the family farm has given way to corporate buyouts. As a result people are leaving for greener pastures in the city.





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