• Display of 500 butterflies along Fourth aims to change how we talk about suicide
  • The election ends today. Here are your options if you haven't voted yet.
  • Detective DAN: With latest delay, Hotel Blue will be at least three years behind schedule
  • A chicken loses its way, finds feline respect
Display of 500 butterflies along Fourth aims to change how we talk about suicide
A pair of Greater Downtown stalwarts are working toward the installation of 500 butterfly figures both large and small along Fourth Street in Barelas. They hope it will encourage both reflection on the roughly 500 Albuquerque residents who take their lives annually and action to reduce that number in the future.

The display, intended as a permanent addition to Fourth between Bell and Coal, would be a physical embodiment of a larger "campaign to change the narrative" about suicide, said Brandy Romero, one of the effort's organizers. It all comes under the umbrella of a collaboration with other community groups called the Brandyn's Friends Awareness Project.

Brandyn's Friends envisions the display beginning with one large butterfly at the southern end of the zone that also could provide a place to post information, Romero said. Details on what the figures would be made of and how they would be installed have yet to be worked out.

The group is named for Brandy's son, Brandyn Romero, who died by suicide seven years ago at the age of 15.

"There comes a grief with death, which is a normal kind of grief," Romero said, but with suicide, the grief is complex and compounded by the profound need many people who experience a loved one's suicide feel to talk when talking is especially difficult.

"For so long, for so many years," she said, both suicide and talking about it been frowned upon.

That's despite the fact that the number of suicide victims far exceeds the number of homicide victims in Albuquerque, the United States, and the world.

"I kind of ran into a common theme in people who are dying by suicide," Romero said. Usually, there is "a window when you can possibly change the trajectory."

But it's not easy, and she said there's not enough support out there, particularly given ongoing stigmas.

"It's an epidemic that we need to address as a community," she said.

The butterfly project could support that vision, she said, by establishing a public place in which everyone can remember those who have been lost and survivors can be reminded that they aren't alone. She also wants to see information on sources of help for people considering suicide incorporated into the project.

The butterflies would not be a memorial to a group of individuals, she stressed, but rather a vehicle for raising awareness, something she already does regularly when talking with groups around the city.

Brandyn's grandfather, Richard Romero, offered to help Brandy with the project about two years ago. He brings skills he has developed as a school principal, state senator, and lobbyist for nonprofit organizations.

So far, they've secured the support of the city's Department of Arts and Culture, the Barelas Neighborhood Association, and Working Classroom, a Barelas arts organization that proposed involving community residents in making the butterflies.

Brandy reckons that Barelas is a fitting spot for the project. She and her husband Keith Romero, an attorney who is the president of the Barelas Community Coalition, raised Brandyn there.

"He was an amazing personality," Brandy said about her son. "Without his spirit, we wouldn't have moved this project forward." 

—By David Lee

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to for a list of additional resources.

The election ends today. Here are your options if you haven't voted yet.

  • Vote at any of these 72 locations, including Albuquerque High School (Santa Barbara Martineztown), Duranes Elementary, Garfield Middle School (Near North Valley), the Herman Sanchez Community Center (South Broadway), Valley High School, and Washington Middle School (Raynolds).
  • Not registered? You can do so at any of those sites and then vote. Information on what to bring here.
  • Hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but if you get in line before closing you can vote no matter what.

Detective DAN: With latest delay, Hotel Blue will be at least three years behind schedule
Alert Reader Glen writes in:

What's happening with (the former) Hotel Blue? All the construction vehicles have left. There's a temporary safety railing around the perimeter of the roof (including a new roof deck?) but no apparent activity. Thanks for investigating.

The long-heralded renovation of the historic Route 66-era hotel began last winter after much delay (it was at one point slated to open in early 2021 - DAN, 8/19/19), and a company representative said at that time that it would open sometime in 2023. 

Not anymore: "The hotel's opening date has shifted to 2024," project spokeswoman Raluca State told DAN.

As for what's holding up the renovation, which featured crews working on the site for several months earlier this year, State said there were "no specific details to share on the latest progress at this time."

A chicken loses its way, finds feline respect

Lost pet posters stick to the basics and emphasize the cute. Usually.

The one that appeared in recent days in the Downtown Neighborhoods calling attention to a stray chicken, however, read more like the sort of introduction a press agent would write for a professional wrestler.

"DGAF 'bout no cats," it proclaimed. "Fierce AF!" (We'll leave it to you, dear reader, to Google the not-exactly-printable full versions of those initials if you wish.)

The hype is well deserved, said Jessica Krichels, into whose backyard the chicken wandered on October 24.

"We have two cats that are siblings who can triangulate and hunt anything, including pigeons, and they're mean, and this chicken is the boss of the cats," Krichels said. "She has made an impression. She is fierce."

The chicken, who has been christened "Sandy," a variation on a friend's rejected suggestion of "Colonel Sanders," has taken to roosting at night on the side tray of the backyard grill.

"She doesn't quite get the irony of that," Krichels said.

But if Sandy takes no guff from felines, she also enjoys the finer things in life, like table scraps.

"She really enjoyed the leftover polenta - we made way too much of it," Krichels said.

Attempts to locate Sandy's owner with the signs and by asking around the neighborhood have so far been unsuccessful, as have attempts to adopt her out to three other chicken-owning families. Whether Krichels would attempt an adoption herself if no other home can be found is still an open question, she said.

Downtown Albuquerque News covers Downtown, Old Town, and surrounding neighborhoods. We publish weekdays except for federal holidays. If someone forwarded DAN to you, please consider subscribing. To subscribe, contact us, submit a letter to the editor, or learn more about what we do, click here. If you ever run into technical trouble receiving DAN, click here.
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