POET'S CORNER by Jeff Hartzer
#021: February, 2006
With ever-increasing hurricane winds and daily ‘signs of the apocalypse’, more folks are moving to New Mexico by the hour. New houses and new warehouses stretch from Rio Rancho south to the Rio Bravo extension. Love it or hate it, a gigantic new Wal-Mart now sucks in the dollars 24/7 in our Valley world. The only commercially viable item still missing in the South Valley is a motel/hotel, through they are multiplying on the far eastern side of Rio Bravo/University Blvd., which goes directly into the new Sunport car rental hub.
Truth be told, the South Valley is alive, well, and going places. You wouldn’t know this though from reading the City Edition of the state’s largest newspaper. South Valley news is tucked away away in the Westside Edition. Readers in Rio Rancho can read about Albuquerque’s best-kept secret, but topical articles won’t be seen by subscribers in Nob Hill, Downtown, the University Area, the Northeast Heights, or nearby South Broadway.
Orange-barrelled roadwork chaos is in the midst of a two year South Valley dust cloud just now. You wouldn’t know that from looking at the daily “Traffic Watch,” in one newspaper . According to the daily map, no roadwork at all is in occurring the South Valley. This lends credence to my notion that in the eyes of many, the manure still flows south into the invisible sibling of New Mexico’s largest city.
Rio Grande High School once had a bumper sticker that read something to the effect of “Albuquerque’s Best-Kept Secret.” A “riot” in the late 90’s put Rio in the national news spotlight. In 2001, presdient Bush visited Barelas just days before 9/11. In 2000, Al Gore visited the South Valley Library. Barelas now has the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Don’t sell off your family land yet because soon the South Valley will have a few new sidewalks!! It won’t be long long before Albuquerque’s best-kept secret gets out. If you have money to burn (and don’t we all?) buy an acre or two of mesa dirt because someone will want to put a warehouse or development there in the next five years (or sooner).
Meanwhile though, Albuquerque media most usually present the South Valley with a portrayal that goes: “Breaking news: high speed chases, DWI’s, gunshots, murders, rapes, mayhem, taggers, all running rampant in South Valley”. Granted, there is the occasional story about some guy who has a yard sale to sell art which seems to me more a story thrown in as a favor to the ‘artist ‘than as a ‘cultural’ event. Even the Burning of Kookooie made the news only in recent years.
My hometown of Jacksonville, Florida was an early leader in combining the county with the city. For a brief time Jacksonville was the world’s ‘second largest city in land area’ (only Tokyo was bigger). Unification worked for Jacksonville. That idea will never work here unless: 1) our ‘best-kept secret’ gets out, 2) the South Valley is appreciated for its unique gifts, 3) is treated as an equal by the news media and the mayor’s office, and 4) its people, the fine folks of the South Valley, decide to no longer settle for being that ‘invisible sibling’.
We must love ‘Albuquerque’ in all of its quadrants: North, South, East, West; up, down, and inside out. Maybe invisibility isn’t all bad. Some secrets are meant to be enjoyed. Heck, the South Valley’s phone listings are in the Albuquerque phone book. Life is good. Coming soon: the joys of landscaped sidewalks. Happy Month of Love and Chocolate hearts!
Jeff Hartzer copyright 2006