Excerpt from Chapter 9 from
A City at the End of the World

If you think the title of this book, A City at the End of the World, seems a bit over the top, consider that the New York Times in October 29, 2001, ran a map in which the state of New Mexico was mislabeled as Arizona.1 Arizona, itself, was left unlabeled, and New Mexico was relegated so far at the end of the world, it tipped over into the realm of non-existent places. And Albuquerque, of course, is the biggest city in that missing region we call the Land of Enchantment. Some on the east coast might think such a term of endearment was chosen to represent a fantasy, a Never Never Land, too enchanting to exist. Tragically, many in Albuquerque still seem to think so too.

In the ten years since this book was published, the people who think of New Mexico as an empty space waiting to be filled with generic corporate gimcracks and the marketing fruits of bad ideas that have cluttered up the rest of the nation with a babble of strip malls, neon commercial graffiti, and endless sprawling suburbs appear to be winning the war for Albuquerque’s identity. And I have to admit I’m really not sure why.

Ten years ago I thought that Albuquerque was “poised...to become a model post-end-of-the-world city -- one that makes the most of being ‘remote beyond compare’ by shifting the emphasis of its environmental public policies from consumption to conservation -- the conservation and actualization of local identity.” I think I was wrong. Instead of actualizing its individuality, and making the most of its cultural complexity, arid limitation, and vast natural beauty, Albuquerque’s built environment has slipped ever more closely into becoming indistinguishable from the anonymous edges of any one of a hundred other western American car towns. But I have to say, too, I don’t think that was the city’s deep intent. Albuquerque’s urban landscape has not only languished in a mire of unfulfilled promise, but that unsettling disappointment has also been punctuated by rare, but heartening, surprises.

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Albuquerque: A City at the End of the World is available from UNM Press remote