This was some time back, Betty Jane Curry was explaining, "back in the hippie days." A long-haired transient blew through town--the little town of Cuba in the mountains of northwestern New Mexico--and made the fatal mistake of sexually assaulting one of Cuba's young women. Betty Jane and her colleagues on the local paper, the Cuba News thought this worthy of note, especially after a knot of vengeful Cubans had their way with the vagrant. Trouble followed publication. As Betty Jane put it: "The local fellows didn't like it at all that we printed their names."
It was one of the few times in the 22 years and six months since the first issue of the News was birthed that it found itself at the center of controversy. "They gave Marrietta a hard time over that one," Betty Jane said. Betty Jane is the monthly publication's typist.
"I guess from the very beginning we decided we didn't want to get in any trouble," said Editor Marrietta Standridge. "In a town this size you can't afford to lose half your business," said Peggy Ohler, who is the paper's artist and Betty Jane's daughter.
"So that's always been our policy," said Marrietta.
"But there was the time some guys broke into the forest service office, and we printed their names, and everybody got incensed," Betty Jane said.
"Right," said Marrietta.
"Then some guy jumped off a bridge, and his parents were outraged that we printed it. He was strange when he jumped off, and he didn't get any better."
"We like to be definite in what we think," said Harriet Hernandez, assistant editor, "but we don't always print it."
"We can sit in here and mutter about it though," said Peggy, whose five-month-old, Jason, rode his mother's hip as easy as any other good Western lad ever sat a pinto. Jason is the only male connected with the paper, which draws its management and work pool from the 24-member Penistaja Homemaker's Extension Club. It was called the Penistaja Woman's Club when the first issue came out on April 6, 1964, with a front-page dedication to "faith in God and country, hope for our future and charity to all," an admirable aim that has appeared in each succeeding issue. Somewhere along the line, "Woman's" inexplicably got changed to "Homemaker's." No one seems to remember why the switch, but, in any event, small potatoes; the newspaper has always been very much a homemade affair. It has been known to get put together on various kitchen tables.
Cuba is one of those low-slung New Mexican adobe towns, a wide spot in the road, really, up on the Colorado Plateau, insight of the Jemez and the Nacimiento ranges of the Rockies. This time of year the country is golden with rabbit weed and chamiza (when the Spaniards first crossed these parts, they called it tierra amarilla, or yellow land), and the deep blue sky above it has no ceiling. In the first issue of the Cuba News--"the first edition of the first newspaper ever printed in this area"--an editorial declared that "we believe by letting the outside world know what is in 'them thar hills' that interest in this corner of God's Country will be born." Today the paper goes to 650 subscribers, including, according to Homemaking Editor Marie Stohr, "a woman that lives in Canada someplace, the sister of the lady that works at the café."