Locals answer the question: What’s the most important thing to happen in Santa Fe in the last 35 years?
“We are on the map! No longer relegated to the backwaters of the empire, we have become a destination to rival the greatest cities in the United States. With the status and as a must-see city, we reaped the rewards of new must-eat-at restaurants, new museums, festivals and a flood of new arrivals. I know people love to bitch until they are blue in the face about ‘how much things have changed’ and ‘all the bastards from (insert state here)’ but we have benefited more than we think from all the attention. Can you think of another city this size where you can eat elk tenderloin and then stride up the street to a Diego Rivera exhibit? Yeah I didn’t think so.”
—“I was born here all my life,” Amanda Mather writes “and am a slave to downtown retail, in a good way.”
“The most important thing to happen in Santa Fe in the 30 years I have lived here is nothing. Resistance to change is a mainstay of life in this town. When individuals or groups sniff change they perceive it as a personal threat. This resistance has taken many forms: active or passive, overt and covert, individual or organized and aggressive or timid. The people who have been here longer than I view any suggestion of change with distaste because their needs are being met. They are invested in this town by giving their time and energy and defending their social and organizational positions. That investment translates into their identity and they will not allow that investment to be devalued. It’s important. People in Santa Fe resist change because we can’t imagine it being any better. There is little attraction to change and change invites suspicion. Many of us don’t trust those who offer change. We don’t buy their vision of the future because the present moment is just fine. Often the only power people have is to obstruct change. And those who do want to bring change drive their stake into the ground and settle in for the long haul knowing they are only selling the perception of change anyway.”
—Thirty years ago, Ray Lopez was driving through Santa Fe on his way home to Las Cruces. He spent a few nights on a friend’s couch, found an apartment for $250 and a job as a picture framer. But his “real calling,” he writes, “has been to be a pain in the ass.”
“It’s not something that can be attributed to a singular event, but having grown up here—and graduating from high school here in 1987—I’d have to say the thing that makes me the proudest of being a Santa Fean is the ability of its young people to rise above the touristy murk and political malaise and carve out a unique, multicultural creative niche for themselves. Art, music, poetry…there’s a lot to be learned from the DIY spirit that they embody. When I look for human inspiration in this town, I usually find it in people who are young enough to be my own children.”
—Ever since Rob DeWalt was told that his “emaciated physique was non-conducive to the under appreciated art of pole dancing and [his] movie script (Ferris Bueller’s Gay Off: The College Years) was rejected,” he has worked as a private chef, writer and food editor.
“I have seen the art world change in Santa Fe. It has become more sophisticated. I loved the decade of THE SANTA FE SHRINE SHOW when hundreds of shrines blessed the town or Shidoni in Tesuque had Mrs. Beasley tossing roses out of her plane on
June 28 (my bornday).”
—Annette Adams owns The Really Chile Festival and has been a fine-art consultant since 1984. She moved to Santa Fe in 1976.
“The Santa Fe Community College is the best thing that has happened. Overdevelopment is the worst thing that has happened. Santa Fe was not divided between the rich and the poor 35 years ago. Both have major impacts.”
—Charlotte Roybal has lived in New Mexico for 41 years and considers herself a progressive activist.
“From my bias, it’s the growth of the SF Chamber Music Festival and the SF Opera. Makes this little city world-famous in the classical music scene.”
—Joel Becktell is assistant principal cellist for the Santa Fe Symphony and a touring chamber, orchestral and solo cellist.
“The influx of newcomers. Santa Fe is not even the same as it was 10 years ago. All you have to do is go to Whole Foods and be rushed and shoved by people from California and New York. Cruise up St. Francis and see all the BMWs and Land Rovers. Do locals even hang out at the Plaza anymore? All you see is obese tourists.”
—Sarah Gomez works for the state of New Mexico and has lived in Chimayo since 1972.
“The shift Santa Fe has experienced in terms of being eco-conscious. Many Santa Fe-ans have lived close to the land for some time. But as local organizations, such as Bioneers and the Farmers Market have gained national recognition, Santa Fe has begun to re-align its reputation as a haven for reconnecting with the outdoors with the nation’s progressing environmental movement.”
—Sarah Heathcote describes herself as a “typical Santa Fe-an. My daily life and work routine is punctuated with excursions into the epic surrounding landscape, interactions with unique local characters and stops at the local bars and restaurants, where everyone is a local.”
“The most important thing in the past 35 years is the tourist-ification of the Plaza. Santa Fe is less and less the walking city that it once was and is more and more like a Disney-theme park. The biggest reason for this change is the Historical Design Review Board that claims to protect ‘authenticity’ and instead has rammed neo-pueblo style down our throats. The fact is that Santa Fe was never that style and being true to History might best be expressed if residents could house sheep in their backyards along Acequia Madre.”
—Thomas Gentry-Funk describes himself as a “World History teacher [who] appears strangely calm on most occasions and rarely offers much that isn’t history-related. Tends to drive non-history folks crazy.”
“The dramatic influx of newcomers who have changed the cultural and political landscape of the city—some for the better and some for the worse—and the equally dramatic outflow of native Santa Feans to Rio Rancho and other more affordable communities that often offer better job opportunities and more family-friendly environments.”
—Aseneth Kepler is a former city attorney and city manager for the City of Santa Fe.
“The debacle surrounding the closing of the College of Santa Fe, especially since we know the importance of education, proving once again that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Remember the classic story about how Santa Fe opted for the penitentiary instead of UNM?”
—Former Pasatiempo Editor Denise Kusel has lived in Santa Fe for 30 years and used to write a column called Only in Santa Fe.
“The explosion of the cultural scene, including the regentrification of Canyon Road, the growth of the SFO and the Museum of New Mexico, the arrival of SITE, the renovation of the Lensic and the birth (and sometimes regrettable death) of the dozens of smaller but essential arts/performance organizations.”
—Jason Silverman is the director of the CCA Cinematheque, has written extensively for Wired magazine and the Santa Fean, authored the collection Untold New Mexico, is the writer-producer-director of the documentary SEMBENE! and is a recipient of a grant from the Sundance Institute. He has lived in Santa Fe for 17 years.
“The development of the Community College and the Museum, which have provided new educational opportunities to learn in formal and informal settings.”
—Frances Levine is director of the New Mexico History Museum and Palace of the Governors.
“Honestly, the closing of College of Santa Fe is something that’s going to be hard for the city to forget both economically and in terms of cultural involvement. Also, the Pet Parade during Fiestas is awesome.”
—Dylan Pommer has lived in Santa Fe his whole life and recently graduated from CSF. He is “highly involved in the arts culture, doing photography and computer arts.”
“The opera covered that open space in its roof.”
—Poet Alex Gildzen has lived in Santa Fe for 15 years.
“We’ve established ourselves as the third largest art market in the US, second only to New York and LA. I think this is amazing for a town this size!”
—Shanna Dunn has lived in Santa Fe for 18 years. Two years ago, she opened Crown Jewels jewelry store, representing more than 50 artists.
“It grew too big! First the Texans started to move in during the oil boom periods of the ’70s-’80s and proceeded to drive housing prices through the roof. Then the next wave of outsiders began their migration in from California and took over where the Texans left off.”
—Doug Roberts was born in Santa Fe, grew up mostly in Los Alamos and now lives in Nambé. He plays music in Santa Fe several times a week and runs the Tin Star Music blog.
“The train came to town for good and, along with it, a permanent Farmers Market! Santa Fe will hereafter be permanently more awesome.”
—Matthew N Gwin describes himself as a “biotech geek and performance-art junkie who was born here all his life, ese. Zozobra firedancer, law student and drummer for the occasionally ubiquitous bellydancing scene.”
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