As a unique – some might say strange or weird – place, Santa Fe is aptly known as the “City Different,” and it’s appropriate to approach the place with something of a weird or humorous take. This is not to diminish the beauty, art, and climate of Santa Fe, which are major reasons it attracts more than the usual number of strange or weird people who contribute to its differences. The information below is designed to capture some of its uniqueness in a light-hearted way.
Please enjoy it but also do go to the sites below for some more practical and sober information for enjoying our city.
- AARP Names Santa Fe 4th healthiest city in the US
The City Different
Why do all the houses look alike?
Some callous wag once said, “If you’ve seen one slum, you’ve seen ’em all.” Once you get to know Santa Fe, you’ll see everything from pink temples to ghostly mansions, not just adobes. But the predominance of the adobe style is part of what makes Santa Fe unique and beautiful. The essence of the adobe pueblo style, one of the great architectural styles of the world, is that it blends with the land around it. It’s more a part of the landscape than an intrusion on it, and its natives hundreds of years ago understood that before Frank Lloyd Wright. You know it, I know it, and the people of Santa Fe know it, but some folks who have to have everything gussied up don’t get it.
- How come all the roofs are flat?
Until about a hundred and fifty years ago (a brief step back in time for Santa Fe), most of our roofs were dirt. Or adobe, if you prefer. Dirt stays on better flat.
- Where do you find oceanfront property in Santa Fe?
At Tesuque Hills, where you see the magnificent beginnings of the ocean, the most fantastic views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Santa Fe, the place snow melts in the spring, runs down to form the Rio Tesuque, which flows to the Rio Pojoaque, which flows to the Rio Grande, which runs past El Paso, through Big Bend, and past Del Rio to the Gulf of Mexico, which joins the Atlantic Ocean.
Oddly, views of the Pacific are trickier in Santa Fe.
George Amos is exclusive representative for Tesuque Hills, the subdivision with
some of the most magnificent views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Santa Fe.
Miss this view and your Santa Fe experience could be merely recreational and not spiritual as well.
Please take precautions, a deep breath before you actually visit Tesuque Hills. These views have been known to take observers’ breath away and could be dangerous to your health at first glance.
- Is Santa Fe getting overdeveloped?
Some say it is. Some say it isn’t. But regardless of our persuasions, we are pretty much united in favor of lynchings of those who build Houses That Call Attention to Themselves (termed “bloated mansions” by the most Jeremiac among us), particularly pitched-roof boxes on ridge tops. If you build, keep it low and tuck it in.
- What’s so appealing about all these crooked-looking adobes?
In Santa Fe, a plumb and square house, like a tidy desk, bespeaks an alien culture and an overly anxious approach to life. The Historic Zoning Ordinance states, “Straight lines shall be avoided.”
- Why do lots of otherwise nice areas have dirt roads?
You want somebody driving more than ten miles an hour past your house?
Besides, paving the road might cause somebody to mistake your neighborhood for a “nice area,” which could negatively affect both your image and the value of your real estate.
- How can you have crumbling adobes and trailers next to million dollar houses?
It makes no more sense than the market for old adobes so aptly described by Juan Madera (known outside Santa Fe as John Wood): Yesterday’s Properties, Today, at Tomorrow’s Prices. At any rate, it’s just another instance of the town’s erratic character.
- How long do adobe buildings last?
Ask the Palace of the Governors.
- What is “walking distance to the Plaza”?
The time it takes to get there when your low rider’s out of gas.
- Why do most of the houses not have lawns?
You want to mow one of those things?
- Why are some of the streets so narrow?
How much room does a burro need?
11.B. How come the eastside doesn’t have sidewalks?
We’d rather use that land for the crops in the courtyards.
11.C. Why are there so many Realtors in Santa Fe?
Studies indicate it’s the same reason there are so many massage therapists. It’s the aura, the energy here. This parallel phenomenon has its advantages. You should be able to find a Realtor who is a massage therapist to show you property and rolf your sticker shock after you’ve looked at real estate.
Is it Another Country?
Do I need a passport?
We have a border-free agreement with Albuquerque, but culture shock is an issue. Entering and leaving by way of Cerrillos Road, with monster stores and mainly conventional buildings, aids in the transition.
Is it safe to drink the water?
Stick to tap water and you’ll be OK.
Why are all the streets called Calle, Camino, and Paseo instead of Street?
The Pilgrims never made it this far.
What does Acequia Madre have in common with Saddam Hussein, what does it mean, and how do you say it?
It means something like “The Mother of All Ditches” (the Mother Ditch, the Main Gully, the Big Ditch), and it feeds all the other “acequias” in the area, which in turn water the bean fields, corn fields, and orchards along Canyon Road and nearby areas, now and two- three- four-hundred years ago. In Santa Fe, Acequia Madre is both an acequia and a street named for it. There are many acequias madres in active use around Northern New Mexico. For some reason there don’t seem to be any Acequias Hijos or Hijas (son or daughter ditches, by name, that is). You say ah-sehk-yah mah-dreh. Along the same lines, make “Tesuque” rhyme more or less with Suzuki, but with the z as an s. “Pojoaque”: puh-wa-keh.
What do they mean when they ask, “Red or green?”
Since you were most likely asked this question by a waiter or waitress, you may already know that a) this is not a real estate term, b) an enchilada is not a building material, and 3) they are not talking about wall paper.
Why do waitresses talk about “Christmas” all through the year?
Maybe it’s a hint for a generous tip.
What’s the Santa Fe version of carpe diem?
Why do you say arroyo?
Most Santa Feans wouldn’t understand wadi.
What’s the difference between a viga and a vega?
Vigas hold up your roof. Vegas hold up cowboys and horses, who ride across ’em. You’ll probably see more cowboys and horses around Las Vegas (“The Plains”), New Mexico than Las Vegas, Nevada, except around the time of the national rodeo finals.
What’s the most common oxymoron in the local dialect?
“Coyote art.” (“Inexpensive real estate” is a close second.)
Is there enough water?
Some say there is. Some say there isn’t. The main thing is to think of and refer to precipitation as “moisture.” Juan Madera emphasizes that the word should be spoken in the same manner as “Holy Father.”
How did all these little creeks get to be called rivers?
It’s our way of thanking the Lord for what we have. If we had the Mississippi, we wouldn’t appreciate it as much.
Where do the movie stars live?
We don’t want to know. It’s embarrassing.
Why aren’t pueblos called “reservations”?
Think about it. And don’t ask a Native American – or an Indian, for that matter.
What is the best response to the visitor who asked, “At what altitude to do deer turn into elk?”