When I started to put together a column about the perceived cultural disconnect between the Southside and downtown areas of Santa Fe, I faced some long-held personal opinions that were hard to give up. But when it came time to test these concepts and theories in the area of music and nightlife across the City Different, I honestly believed any feedback I got from community members would reflect these “truths.”
What I found, however, was that even though there are volatile issues such as gentrification, seemingly vast socio-economical disparities, an aging population and a whole mess of organizations and private citizens with differing visions and ideas for the future, the problem lies more within the realm of city infrastructure than societal difference.
Local DJ/poet/promoter/all-around champion Joe Ray Sandoval has performed just about anyplace you can imagine in and around Santa Fe for years, and identifies such issues as fewer options compared to years past and differing styles of entertainment based on area.
“People want to go downtown and people want to go to the Southside—people want to go anyplace that has something that aligns with their interests,” he says. “There were some venues on the Southside in the past that were pretty cool, but I don’t think it’s really been known as the area for music in some time and has sort of changed into the area for places like Buffalo Wild Wings or bars for watching sports or fights, whereas the downtown area has nicer hotels and clubs that cater to people looking to walk from where they’re staying and have a drink and see live music.”
Regardless of venue location, Sandoval points out that safety is a constant concern. With the Capital City Cab monopoly and buses that simply don’t run late at night, any club or venue can quickly change from a fun night into a trying mission in getting home alive or not getting arrested. “When it’s after 2 am and people have been partying and they’re cold and waiting who knows how long for a cab, they just kind of say, ‘Fuck it’ and decide to drive,”
Sandoval says. “But are you really going to tell me that we can’t find people who’d be happy to work a graveyard bus shift or that it’s not irritating to wait forever for a cab?” Longtime local musician Mikey Baker expands, “I don’t think it’s so much a social thing as much as, as musicians we want to go where the money is, where the hotels are, where the tourists are,” he says. “There are more people living [on the Southside] who would probably love if there were something worthwhile to do, but club owners are going after the tourist dollars so downtown thrives and sometimes you have to decide from a money standpoint whether it’s worth it or even safe to travel to a part of town where you don’t live.”
Obviously DWI laws should not be more lenient, but looking at the cost and hassle of cabs and a less-than-stellar public transportation system, there are surely steps that could be taken. When I lived in Santa Cruz, Calif., bars had coupons that could be placed on dashboards and said something to the effect of, “I drank too much, I’ll get my car at 10 am, please no ticket!” Yes, this would be a blow to parking enforcement revenue, but surely an accident avoided or a life saved more than makes up for that.
Venues citywide also have to work to make it worth the cost of a cab for citizens to react positively. Why take a cab across town for subpar entertainment when you could just as easily stay home. Former Santa Fe resident and frontman of rock/reggae/hip-hop band La Junta, Nick Peña points out that music is often an afterthought for clubs that mainly look for drinkers. “Outside of Santa Fe, when you go to a show or venue there’s a stage…a quality sound system, and [venues] take care of the entertainment,” he says. “There is definitely a divide in wealth in Santa Fe, but rich or poor, if people want to let loose, they will.”
So there’s work to be done to unite the city, but it is still cool to learn we don’t all hate each other as much as I thought.