Thursday, July 14, 2011

Plaza spirit nurtures friendships

LAS CRUCES and MESILLA — Maybe it comes with finally finding your querencia, that wonderful word that represents, to me, more than just a special place: it’s a kind of soulmate relationship between a person and the spot that feels like home.
After visiting and living in a lot of places around the planet, I’ve realized that there are cities, towns and villages that can become good friends, and I feel lucky to have found two amigos of a lifetime right here in querencia territory.
Two of my best buds are Las Cruces and Mesilla. Like all BFFs, they have hearts of gold — in this case, Mesilla Plaza and the Downtown Mall.
And like other loved ones, I miss them if we don’t keep in touch, I realized one recent Wednesday when I drove over to the Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market. The corazon of LC and I used to get together pretty much every week when it was a block’s walk from the Sun-News building. Our post-fire interim headquarters at 715 E. Idaho Ave. isn’t really that far away, but there’s still that little heartache of separation you feel when you, or a loved one, moves out of the 'hood.
Meandering through Mesilla last Friday, it struck me again that weekends and market days are particularly good times to have heart-to-hearts with my amigos.
And here the heart analogy stretches, because the hearts of my best city friends are densely populated with the human friends I always seem to encounter there. Old friends. New friends. Friends-in-development. Friends I’d like to know better. Even, rewarding experience has taught me, as-yet-unmet potential friends.
There’s something about New Mexico plazas that makes them unlike any other place on Earth, not even the European plazas that inspired them.
There is a mixture of native Pueblo style and profoundly bonded community, a touch of Wild West adventure, high-desert hospitality and a spirit of All-American melting pot democratic camaraderie.
I noticed it decades ago on my first visit to New Mexico, when I first discovered the plazas of old town Albuquerque and downtown Carlsbad.
The same spirit pervades the corazons of tiny Tularosa, artistic Taos and even otherwise-sometimes-snooty Santa Fe.
Locals — and quickly-acclimated tourists and visitors — make eye contact, smile and greet strangers. Maybe we paid our dues with those legendary high noon shoot-outs long ago. Now, casual acquaintances and even those in awkward or hostile relationships tend to greet one another as friends, at least for the space of an encounter in a plaza DMZ.
That spirit holds whether you’re dancing through a full-tilt fiesta or enjoying a solitary solo amble through an almost-deserted plaza at dawn or dusk.
Plaza spirit makes us sensitive; even psychic. We’ll generally acknowledge one another with a cordial nod or wave, and maybe stop you for a friendly chat, if the mood is right. But we’ll also sense it if you’re savoring alone time, and let you walk on, undisturbed.
For most of us, (those of us who don’t have to plant, clean, decorate and renovate them — and mil gracias, you all, for tending our corazons) plazas are low maintenance, loyal and rewarding. And so, it seems to me, are the friendships we form and nurture there.
It's easy, on a Farmers Market Saturday morning or a Mesilla Plaza Sunday afternoon, to meet, greet and catch up with dozens of friends, share a bit of news, a sympathetic hug, a congratulatory pat on the back, a beso, a handshake … and then stroll on, all in the space of a few moments. Or discover a long-lost amigo and join forces for an impromptu drink or meal that turns into a reunion that lasts for hours.
You can continue an ongoing conversation, mend a misunderstanding, share a dance, make a plan, start a life-changing collaboration or —¿quien sabe? — maybe even fall in love.
Miracles big and small … anything and everything seems possible in the milagro spirit of a New Mexico plaza, which waxes strong from sultry summers to frosty piñon-scented winters, especially in my querencia favorites: Mesilla and Las Cruces.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

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