Ruby's Body Shop, one of the sets from the film, is still standing in Truchas. Image by Jennifer Sensiba.

Truchas, NM, Charging Install Shows That NM Hasn’t Changed Since The Beanfield War

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I recently came across a post from a friend who likes to go out and check on charging station progress in New Mexico. This time, he was sharing images from a new station in Truchas, New Mexico. Sadly, what we’re seeing here echoes a problem that was put on display in the 1988 film The Milagro Beanfield War, which was filmed in the town.

“Who The F*** Is Joe Mondragon?”

In The Milagro Beanfield War, a star-studded cast tells the story of Milagro, New Mexico. Facing aggressive developers, the future of the community’s long-time residents is in danger. But a finish carpenter named Joe Mondragon accidentally puts a big kink in the developer’s plans when he accidentally starts watering his father’s old beanfield. One thing leads to another, and the next thing you know there are ghosts, gunfights, bulldozers going off cliffs, and a big standoff with a crooked plainclothes New Mexico State Police officer.

In the end, the townspeople win and preserve their traditional way of life, but it required overcoming the machinations of a crooked and incompetent state government to do it.

If you haven’t seen it already, it’s definitely worth buying! You can get it on most streaming services that sell movies or on DVD/Blu-Ray.

Things Haven’t Changed Much

One of the things that made Milagro Beanfield War such a good film was how realistic it was. When most people think of New Mexico, they think about Albuquerque and Santa Fe. They might think about turquoise, Georgia O’Keeffee, and good Mexican food, but the rest of the state often gets ignored.

The film gave not only a realistic look at life outside of the larger cities, but the state of government in New Mexico. The needs of developers and big businesses often get addressed because they give the state’s politicians big money and promise to bring jobs. It’s not uncommon for governors to show up when a big employer moves to town, even if it’s a company that’s there to exploit cheap labor and then close up shop (call centers were a great example of this).

This problem goes all the way back to the Teapot Dome Scandal, a 1922 bribery scheme conducted by former New Mexico Senator Albert Fall. The fallout and disgrace from what at the time was the worst scandal in U.S. political history led to New Mexico’s Republicans losing power in the state for decades. Facing a tarnished opposition, Democrats in turn were emboldened to get into their own corruption. When that got bad, corrupt Republicans got into office. This repeated cycle of corruption continues today.

Don’t believe me? At least one New Mexico governor spent time with Jeffrey Epstein. That should be enough to rest my case.

The worst thing is that rural communities often feel the brunt of the corruption. Out of the way and with too few votes, they get neglected and even robbed by state government. Even worse, the story of Joe Mondragon in the movie was based on the real story of Joe Cisneros, a man who fought for environmental justice against a big corporation.

Paying Way Too Much For Bad Chargers

With The Milagro Beanfield War rooted in reality, it’s a little ironic that we’d now see the little town of Truchas get shafted. This time, the state got a lot of money from the Dieselgate payout, and was supposed to use it to expand EV charging around the state. While they’re doing that, there are many small towns in northern New Mexico where they aren’t doing it well.

As my friend points out, Truchas got two Tritium RT50 chargers. These chargers are not only an outdated design that has proven finicky elsewhere, but they’re also pretty slow by 2024 standards (50 kW). They also don’t have a screen or anything to help get the charging process going.

To be fair, Tritium isn’t a bad company. Its newer hardware is nicer, faster, and just generally a lot more aesthetically pleasing. But New Mexico officials and the companies contracting for these got a lot of money and are delivering the cheapest and least nice charging experience they could deliver, especially in rural areas.

Sadly, Truchas is just the latest small community in the state to get these chargers. Other places, like Chama, Tierra Amarilla, and the Picuris Pueblo have gotten these put in, and only after an entirely too long installation process and months without power. The one in Chama has been down at least some of the time in recent weeks, and is installed in a spot that’s “a bit of a mudpit,” according to one reviewer on Plugshare.

In other words, not a lot of thought has been put into installing many of these charging stations. Not only did the state not have a good quality control process, but they didn’t seem to care that much about what happened in these small towns.

But, what else is new? At least this time the small towns got something, even if it sucks.

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How We Can Fix This

The good news is that it wouldn’t take much to fix this situation.

On the upside, these rural communities now have some decent power connections. The hardware drawing power from these connections sucks, but the power is at least there. That’s most of the battle, especially when you’re not close to the power plants.

While these power service connections are relatively small, that doesn’t mean that they can’t support much faster charging. By using battery storage, these sites could not only store energy for faster charging sessions, but provide some grid stabilization to the communities. With enough storage and maybe some solar nearby, the charging could rely more on renewable energy and make the town more self-sufficient.

On top of that, upgrades could be made to the parking lots. Even gravel over “mud pits” would be a big improvement over what’s there now in some of these places, but a little concrete pad or a small patch of asphalt would obviously be better as long as the drainage is well planned out.

Bottom line: these sites can still become a lot better than they are today, and keep getting better in the future if the state has the political will to do it.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1987 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba