By Vincent Barrett Price
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5 In the minds of some writers and many Americans, Albuquerque has become a metaphor for benighted places, not only a sociological badlands, but also an aesthetic purgatory of hayseeds and other rustics that might as well be called "Albujerky" as anything else. Most galling of all, though, is that the richness and ragtag complexity of Albuquerque's urban identity is not only overlooked in the opinions of outsiders, but also by its own image makers. It seems incredible that an almost four-hundred-year-old city in one of the world's most spectacular natural settings, surrounded by the enduring spiritualism of Pueblo Indian culture and rooted in the center of an ancient Hispanic heartland, would have so much trouble creating an understandable image for itselfan image that both welcomes new infusions of wealth and brain power, and guides quality development.
And as a result of this confusion, the outside world isn't sure if Albuquerque is a cartoonist's gold mine, an incongruous wide spot in the road, or a big-city cousin of Santa Fe and Taos. It wasn't always this way. When I came to Albuquerque in the late 1950s, one of the first things I noticed was that most people I met were fiercely proud of being New Mexicans, native or otherwise, and utterly delighted not to be living anywhere else. They had been enthralled by the myth of New Mexico. To them the Land of Enchantment was not a tourist slogan, but a personal reality.
It has not made the big time. It connects with mainstream America, but its sources remain in the hinterlands. Mainstream America looks upon Albuquerque as a marginal place, provincial and even primitively undeveloped. Like other emerging towns and cities in the American West and in the developing world, Albuquerque's vulnerability to mainstream cultural backwash and population flooding puts it on the list of endangered places. And because it is geographically set in the middle of a true natural wildernessthe riverine, high desert plateau of central New MexicoAlbuquerque is particularly defenseless against the fast-paced flow of the mainstream world.
A city at the end of the world by Vincent Barrett Price