THE DIFFERENT CITY

By Richard McCord


Santa Fe


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Santa Fe: a city like no other.

It's a state capital, but it barely has airline service. It has 150 art galleries but only two public golf courses. It is notorious for a high cost of living and a low wage base. Its population includes a roughly equal number of dreamers and welfare recipients (they often overlap). Its major is government, followed closely by tourism—but there's virtually no manufacturing, and not a smokestack in town.

Santa Fe, founded in 1607, is the oldest capital city in the nation; yet the state it heads, New Mexico, is one of the nation's youngest, not joining the Union until 1912. Millionaires live next-door to minimum-wage workers in Santa Fe, and they like it that way—on dirt roads, to be sure. The prospect of city growth is the greatest hope of half the population, and the greatest fear of the other half.

There is a lot of money in Santa Fe, and a lot of wealthy people; but if they display it ostentatiously, they are frowned upon. This is a city of seekers: of artists, writers and other creators; of healers and holy men; of hippies, still, and woodcutters; of waitresses with Ph. D.s; of Realtors and bureaucrats galore, and more lawyers and doctors than there is need for them. And when these people meet each other, they become friends.

Santa Fe is blessed with the most wonderful climate on Earth. In the winter there is snow and sunshine. In the summer there is rain and sunshine, and incredible lightning storms. In the fall the aspens turn gold, in the spring the wind blows. The air is high and dry, and at Santa Fe's 7,000-foot altitude, the nights are always cool.

Statistics show that the annual rainfall averages 14 inches, the snowfall 35; the relative humidity evens out at 45 percent, the prevailing winds average 7 mph. The normal high in January is 40 degrees, the low 18; in July the high is around 85, the low 56 at night—blanket weather. There is very little air-conditioning in Santa Fe, and very little need for it. There are 300 days of sunshine a year.

For those who take note of such things, Santa Fe has a longitude of 105 degrees, 56 minutes, and a latitude of 35 degrees, 41 minutes—roughly the same latitude as Casablanca, Athens, Baghdad, Osaka and Kabul, Afghanistan. It is closer to Mexico City than it is to New York, and closer to Moose Jaw, Canada, than it is to either of those cities. Santa Fe and Los Alamos counties combined have a work force of some 60,000 jobs, the state Department of Labor says, and an unemployment rate of only about 4 percent. But many workers are employed below their skill level, the department notes. State government is far and away the biggest local employer, with some 14,000 jobs.

The average three-bedroom house here sells for $189,000, and the average two-bedroom apartment rents for $650 a month. The median annual family income in Santa Fe is $36,000, some of which, presumably, gets deposited in the 11 banks with offices here, which among them have amassed just under $1 billion in total assets. The 65,000 or so residents can worship in 59 different churches, and when they get sick they can claim one of the 265 beds in the town's only all-purpose hospital, St. Vincent.

Santa Fe is celebrated as "the city of three cultures"—Indian, Hispanic and Anglo—and anybody else who comes along, such as blacks, are considered Anglos because the other two cultures got here first. Among local Hispanic families the Spanish language is still proudly spoken, along with English, but the written Spanish word gets harder and harder to find, except on the ballot on Election Day.

These are just a few of the facts about Santa Fe, New Mexico, U.S.A. There is really no place like it, and as you become acquainted with SantaFeAlwaysOnline.com, you will learn the things you need to know about this absolutely unique American city.

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