Although I was 26 before I visited New Mexico, I’ve always felt a strange kinship with the state. I suspect it’s because much of my childhood was spent traveling to see my grandparents in Arizona (where my dad grew up). We’d attend pow-wows, visit local museums, and explore the high desert landscape, and I always yearned to cross the state line, and delve deeper into the Southwest.
On my first visit, I spent several days in Santa Fe, and it was love at first sight. Since then, I’ve made many trips to New Mexico, but I always try to spend time in Santa Fe. Hordes of tourists flock there for a reason: its cultural, historical, architectural, scenic, and culinary charms make it one of America’s most alluring small cities.
I recently spent a weekend in Santa Fe, as it’s an enjoyable, six-hour drive from my home in Boulder. As I wandered the city each day, I was repeatedly asked for directions by befuddled visitors. I dislike looking like a tourist, and the upside of being a bit of a dirtbag is that I’m often mistaken for a local when I travel domestically. I’m secretly delighted when tourists ask me for intel, even if I don’t know the answer.
In Santa Fe, however, it’s easy to tell the natives from the tourists if you know what to look for. I’ve compiled a handy list, so that when you visit, you, too, can fake it. Native Santa Feans, please know that these observations come from a deep place of affection … and that there’s a reason I’m not telling you the location of my hometown.
How to look like a Santa Fean
Wear natural fibers.
Smile. Say hello. Mean it.
Know how to correctly pronounce and use the following words: acequia; luminaria; viga; portales; ristra; sopapilla; adovada, posole.
Wearing lots of turquoise and silver jewelry is good, as long as it doesn’t look new.
Know where Canyon Road is.
Own well-worn cowboy boots and hat. Quality counts.
Get your gossip on at the farmers market.
Rock a hairstyle 20 to 30 years out of date, regardless of your gender. Males should ideally have hair that reaches at least the shoulders, even if balding on top; pony-tail optional.
Food: the spicier, the better.
Heels or a tie for dinner at a restaurant? Nah.
Drive an old pickup.
Breakfast: posole, green chile, or a burrito.
Leathery, sun-burnished skin trumps a spray tan, any day.
[Photo credit: Flickr user kenkopal]