Portrait of Santa RosaRural American towns fight to stay alive everyday. Santa Rosa, a town of nearly 2,800, is hanging by threads as the community fights to resurrect the economy and the youth flee to discover the bigger cities in hopes for something more.
Pressed against I-40, one of America’s largest freeways, it welcomes travelers from the west and east coasts as they cut through the New Mexican community in route to their destinations. The constant flow of travelers keeps a string of motels and truck stops in business while they stop for rest or gas to continue on the highway.
Blue water towers loom over the old Route 66 thoroughfare that weaves through the heart of the town, where in the mix of vacant decrepit storefronts you’ll find a newly opened business here-and-there in entrepreneurial attempts to stimulate the economy. A mix of ranchers and working-class Catholics call Santa Rosa home. A town that lives for friday night football games at the high school and the fall county fair.
If you want to talk to the mayor, you can just go to see him at his restaurant. Teenagers wait tables after school. Elderly people scoot around town on their electric wheelchairs as they waive and say “hello.” It is the quintessential American town.
But one by one, the businesses are disappearing. The necessary community services are leaving - there is no longer a day care for families to leave their children at while they go to work. A string of motels hires international students to staff the housekeeping areas in the peak summer times because they can’t find laborers willing to work.
Drug use is on the rise and the privately owned prison provides the bulk of jobs for community. The elderly make the choice to leave their home and relocate to Albuquerque, the closest urban area, where they have easier access to proper care and doctors as their bodies begin to decline.
Santa Rosa is not a special case. If anything, it is an example of what is transpiring in other rural American towns that seek ways to hold on to their tradition and simplistic ways of life while the more expensive and chaotic cities gain their laborers and students. Rural American towns die off rapidly as the economy shifts and it becomes more difficult to thrive in more modern times, but Santa Rosa is still there.