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Know the West

Pedro Lopez, entrepreneur


(This is a sidebar to an HCN magazine cover story on the New West's servant economy.)

Avon, Colorado

Pedro Lopez, from Aguascalientes in central Mexico, says he's lived for three years in esta trailer.

It's a sheet-metal shack roughly next door to the chic Beaver Creek ski resort. Duct tape holds his cracked windows together. His ceiling light bulb is bare and his sofa has cinder blocks for legs.

"Esta bien," Lopez says. He won't complain.

The other trailers in this rundown neighborhood hold Latino workers in much the same situation. The ski mountain, which begins just a couple of hundred yards away, looms over everyone down here. There's a different ambiance up on the mountain: Vacation homes have glass fronts that wink sun reflections down on us.

Yet by his scale, Lopez is as much an entrepreneur as the ones ensconced in their gated neighborhood on the mountain. Shrewd with his hourly pay from cleaning rooms at the Marriott, six months on, six off, he managed to buy this trailer. Now he's a landlord, charging rent to no less than seven other immigrant workers he squeezes in here. They sleep and work in staggered shifts.

But Lopez's upstart enterprise was in the path of a giant. Vail Associates, the company that owns the ski mountain, has bought the trailer park and will erase it to develop the land.

Everybody in the trailers must scramble. Represented by a lawyer, they negotiated compensation from the ski company, $4,000 per household - but whatever landing spots they manage to find will be out on the fringe. Some of Lopez's neighbors have already towed their trailers 40 miles to Leadville, over on the working-class side of the high passes. From there they will commute back to the ski-country job. Lopez, 37, will probably go that route.

As Lopez says, it is necessary.

- by Ray Ring,
HCN senior editor