From her office in Questa, New Mexico’s Visitor Center, Lindsay Mapes can walk out the door, cross a vacant lot and peer through the windows of several empty houses. Some look ready for their residents to return, with photos still on the walls and chairs at the table. In others, the ceilings have begun to sag. A cream-colored house with a peaked tin roof and a wooden porch gazes eastward toward the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. With its dramatic views and architectural charm, it has what real estate agents call great potential. But the house has been empty for years.
“It sits there so lonely and sad,” said Mapes, Questa’s economic development director. A pair of teenagers parked their car at the end of the lot and she chatted with them long enough to make sure that the property owner knew they were there.
The current owner, Estevan Rael-Gálvez, doesn’t want to sell the house; he spent his childhood here and wants to keep a toehold in the community. But he isn’t ready to live in it, either. He’s one of many homeowners who want to hold on to family properties, even though their jobs or circumstances have taken them away from a place they consider home. The 2014 closure of the nearby molybdenum mine sped many of those departures. Mapes was hired through the Questa Economic Development Fund, an independent nonprofit that is financially supported by the mine’s owner, Chevron.
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