Rainbow Blight?

Rainbow Blight?

Anyone looking for something to do this Fourth of July and within striking distance of the tiny town of Cuba, New Mexico, should go check out the Rainbow Family at its annual gathering on national forest lands. As usual, the”dis-organization” is having run-ins with the Forest Service over the thousands of unpermitted campers and the occupation of a chunk of public land.

In 2005, I spent some time with the Rainbows outside Steamboat Springs on the Routt National Forest, reporting for the Colorado Springs Independent on the group’s disciples, and its annual battles with the Forest Service.


It was definitely one of the more entertaining assignments I’ve had:

In order to deal, the Forest Service has a National Incident Management Team, consisting of law enforcement officers and resource advisers, that coordinates with local and state officials. The model is equivalent in command and management structure to the teams the agency assembles to combat a raging wildfire. The federal government treats the Rainbow Family like the anthropological equivalent of a natural disaster.

Never mind the dreadlocks, the drum circles and the derogatory words of the Forest Service, say the Rainbows their gathering is no calamity.

“There’s control in the middle of the chaos,” says Willie.

Rainbows believe they are a fully functioning cooperative community, and many speak of their gathering sites as sacred places. Their annual national meetings and the smaller regional ones during the rest of the year are not just outdoor festivals.

Cowboy Rockstar is a 20-year-old kid from Chicago who has spent the last year traveling on a school bus with other Rainbows. He calls the Family gathering grounds “Zion” and, along with everyone else, refers to the outside world where people own things and hold jobs as “Babylon.”

Cowboy had earned an associate’s degree in film production and edited music videos, among other activities, to pay the bills for a few years. Then he rode off from Babylon.

“Just being that guy on the corner, playing guitar and not getting a cent, and seeing how people looked at you,” he says of his dropout existence. Now, he’s the veteran and usual driver of his bus troupe, which doubles as the Shut Up and Eat It kitchen at gatherings.

About 20 kitchens like this one will serve free food every day throughout the gathering. Everyone gets a meal, women and children first, before anyone gets seconds.

“We feed on a Hobbit schedule,” one of Cowboy’s comrades says. “Breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies …” His toes resemble those on Frodo’s gnarly feet.

“I can’t say the Rainbow Family is perfect,” says Cowboy, as he picks up a guitar, “but it’s the closest thing to perfect so far.”

Check out the full story at the Indy‘s website.

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