Tonic for the Times, a star-studded documentary and music festival to raise money for New Mexico’s health care workers, streamed virtually on Saturday, Jan. 20.

Some of the guest speakers and performers for the event were Steven Michael Quezada, Penn Jillette, Chevel Shepherd, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Sophie B. Hawkins, Prism Bitch and Bob Odenkirk.

Cyndi Conn, one of the event’s organizers, said “(health care workers) never actually leave the hospital mentally,” so the inspiration for the event was to show gratitude for their hard work.



Performances were recorded from all over the country, including from Meow Wolf, recording studios and performer’s homes.

Tickets were free, but the organization continues to accept donations that will be used as grants for New Mexicans experiencing financial hardship during the pandemic. The fund was established by La Liga, the Poeh Cultural Center and the Continuous Pathways Foundation.

The concert featured passionate interviews from New Mexico’s frontline workers, where they discussed the daily stress they undergo and why their work is important amid a global health crisis.

“Despite the circumstances … and losing entire families that you’ve known for years, you’ve got to get up and realize if it gets harder, I’m going to fight harder,” Dr. David Durham, a physician at Four Corners Regional Health Center, said. “That’s what I’m proud of.”

Between performances and interviews, Hakim Bellamy, the event’s host and Albuquerque’s first poet laureate, wandered around an empty Meow Wolf while encouraging viewers to donate.

Tito’s Handmade Vodka, one of the event’s sponsors, donated a guitar signed by founder Tito Beveridge himself. Every $250 donation gave donors one entry in a drawing to win the guitar.

One of the documentary filmmakers who worked on the event, Leandra Romero, traveled across New Mexico to interview health care workers.

Romero said the most heartwarming part of her encounters with physicians was “the people who wanted to speak to us and were excited and grateful to us.”

Romero also emphasized the importance of the public understanding the sacrifices that health care workers make on a day-to-day basis.

New Mexico’s Indigenous communities were hit particularly hard by the pandemic, according to many of the interviewees.

“A lot of Native people are struggling with finding necessities, like trying to find an internet connection that’s good enough for their kids to go to school (online),” Karl Duncan, the executive director at the Poeh Cultural Center, said.

Dr. Kyle Maestas is a physician assistant staying at Buffalo Thunder Resort Casino in Santa Fe, where they’re providing shelter for individuals who tested positive for or were exposed to COVID-19.

“One of the unique things about Native American communities, and why it’s a little bit more high-risk ... is because of the multigenerational homes,” Maestas said, referring to the risk of getting sick for grandparents, parents and children living under the same roof.

According to the United Nations, the pandemic has had a disproportionately negative impact on Indigenous communities due to economic struggles and lack of access to basic health care.

“Our job to help protect Native communities is really to help protect the future of that tribe,” Maestas said.

Tonic for the Times will continue to accept donations indefinitely. As of the time of publication, the organization has raised $22,969 out of their $30,000 goal. Those interested in donating can visit the Tonic for the Times COVID-19 Relief Fund website.

Sarah Bodkin is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at culture@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @sarahbodkin4