There were high hopes among the nine Indian families who live in crumbling mud and straw huts here when President Carter signed a law 19 months ago making this tiny enclave part of the distant Papago reservation.
"We had a dream of changing all this," said Angelo Joaquin, 51, who represents the village's 29 inhabitants at the tribal council. "You may not know this, but this is not a very good place to live."
Despite the efforts of Joaquin and tribal elders, funds still have not been found to bring life in Florence Vilage into the 20th century. Requests by the tribe for $170,000 for simple improvements have been turned down by a budget-conscious Congress.
Joaquin unfurled an elegantly lettered blueprint of a Florence Village of the future, complete with a "city park," a road, a recreation center and gas, water, sewer and electrical lines. The map's legend showed that it had been drawn by the Phoenix office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. "I don't know what to do with this," he said. "When I first saw it I thought it would happen, just like that. But we are learning we have to wait."
The tall, laconic Joaquin, former state prison warden, helped lead the campaign, with the assistance of Rep. MORRIS K. Udall (D-Ariz.), to have Congress recognize the flat, 20-acre plot of land as part of the Connecticut-sized Papago Indian reservation on the Arizona-Mexico border, 40 miles to the south. The village is 50 miles southeast of Phoenix.
It was settled in 1916 by Papagos who worked on the surrounding cotton farms and who decided to stay instead of returning to the reservation. Owned by the Eyer family, the land -- just west of the Pinal County seat of Florence -- was "kindly given" to the tribe by Alice Eyer in 1972.
"We thought that official recognition meant an end to misery," said Joaquin. "But we learned a lesson. I was happy last fall when we went to Washington to tell the congressmen about our problems." Along with other Papago tribe members, Joaquin was given the customary two minutes to present his case. "Eight years of suffering in two minutes," he said, shaking his head.
According to tribal attorney William Strickland, Joaquin asked Rep. Sidney R. Yates (D-Ill.), chairman of the Appropriations interior subcommittee for $80,000 for four houses funded by the BIA's Housing Improvement Program (HIP) and $90,000 for repairs to the existing houses.
"We did not get it," said Strickland, a Tucson attorney. "These kinds of things tend to be regarded in Congress as a laundry list. In a year of budget cuts, problems like Florence Village get washed out."
"I asked a lady at the BIA if she would help," Joaquin said. "I asked if she would come out and take a look for herself at what I mean. She told me to send her some pictures. I would like to, but we don't have any cameras here."
Perry Baker, an aide to Udall, said the congressman was "aware of the situation" and that "we have always been working to help the Papagos." But he added, "This year is the year of budget cuts and a lot of people who need the money are not getting it."
Official inclusion in the reservation has meant some changes. Funds, were somehow found for speed limit and stop signs on the dirt trial connecting the village to the nearest paved road. Seven Comprehensive Employment and Training Act workers under villager Barbara Ramon, 26, are building "emergency shelters," as Ramon describes it, and have helped put up the shell of one HIP home.
Scheduled to move into the HIP home, after funds are found for its completion, is Leonard Lopez, 45, and his brother, who live in a windowless mud hut that looks as if it should be in a sepia-toned photo of the Old West. "Sometimes you have to wait and see what happens," said Lopez. "When I move in, I'll believe it."
"We need housing desperately," said Joaquin, who estimates the total bill for the BIA-envisioned community of simple cinder-block houses at $2.7 million. "We may have to wait 20 years. I am sure now we will have to wait 20 years. But right now we are not living any better than our dogs. We have a per capita income of only $200."
Papago Chairman Max Norris, discussing the problem of Florence Village at tribal headquarters in Sells, Ariz., said that "of all the many problems I have, the problem of Florence Village is the most frustrating."
Norris brushed tears from his face as he talked about "hopes and broken promises. That is no life out there," he said. "They have to go 90 miles just to haul wood. They've got old people who get sick every winter and children who get a fever and then another fever."
Just this month, 96-year-old Emrcedes Antone died after yet another yearly fight with pneumonia. "She was an old woman," said Joaquin. "She expected to die. But she didn't deserve to die in the dirt.
"We know now we must wait a long time for this to happen," he said, pointing to the blueprint. "But when you sit here day after day, watching your fingers turn blue with the cold, you wonder what those congressmen are thinking of when they make a budget. Do they ever remember us?"