Community Cafés

When your town doesn’t even have a post office or a gas station, you find other ways to come together.

This year begins with hopes of change and, I believe, a desire for community. I find myself thinking about the importance of cafés as gathering places, where people make themselves at home. Much is written about Santa Fe, for instance, but once you’re a few miles outside the city, the urban flavor quickly thins. Go southeast, and I’d say it ends at Galisteo. And although there’s been a winter tradition of cozy, late-afternoon Sunday suppers (picture pot roasts and short ribs) at the centuries-old adobe Galisteo Inn, that will soon be a thing of the past. The former ranch headquarters is about to close its doors—not just for the season, but for the indefinite future. While Santa Feans, tourists, and a few movie stars have happily made the drive to the country for dinner on occasion, the inn has served its small community of Galisteans in a more constant and fundamental way. We’ve had a bar to go to for a glass of wine and a small dinner, a bar so tiny that one invariably ends up chatting—if not actually eating with—neighbors who happen to be sitting at the other table. There’s also the option of enjoying chef Kim Mueller’s beautiful dinners in the inn’s more spacious dining room, and lately we’ve been able to pop in for some huevos rancheros for breakfast. Even though more than the usual share of prickly people—folks who want lots of uninterrupted time to write or paint—live in Galisteo, the truth is, we all need company, and knowing that the inn’s public days are about to end makes all of us see how important it’s been for the life of Galisteo. If your community doesn’t even have a gas station or post office (and we have neither), where do people come together?

I’m going to be on the lookout for cafés as indicators of health, wherever I can find them, but especially in small towns. Happily, I’ve got one in sight already. The defunct Galisteo village store, which has lain vacant for years, has been bought and it’s going to re-open within the year. It won’t have the glamour of the inn, but that’s okay. Instead, it will offer some basic things, like a place to buy a quart of milk without driving 20 miles, along with the opportunity to sit down with a cup of coffee, a bite to eat, and some conversation with neighbors. It’s going to offer other things too, things that communities need to thrive, and as it takes shape, I’ll let you know what they are and how they’re coming together. And if you hear of such developments in your towns, I’d love it if you’d tell me about them.

There’s a blip of activity in Moriarty because it’s on I-40, but drive on and as the roads narrow, the towns become smaller and sadder. “Land for Sale” signs are more numerous now, just as there are more houses for sale in Santa Fe than usual. This is expected.

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