ON August 24, 1975 my first Placitas home was revealed to me in an unexpected twist of fate. I found it advertised in the Sunday Journal, and I persuaded my husband to take a look at it, just for fun. This was to become the first day of my first incarnation as a Placitan. The house was adobe on a spectacular 1.5 acre lot in the Village, bordering a live acequia lined with cottonwoods. We had been living in the university area of Albuquerque at the time, but everything about Placitas clearly spelled NEW MEXICO.
Having first moved to The Land of Enchantment in 1970 from Massachusetts, I was ready to make the connection to this mysterious place and move beyond the Albuquerque borders that kept me loosely affiliated with my East Coast lifestyle. It was time to say adios to my typical neighborhood with its invasive street lighting, sidewalks and repetitive houses all in straight rows. I considered it a "move up" to Placitas, where I discovered narrow winding roads and fresh springs of clear water that channeled through meandering irrigation ditches. Dramatic panoramas drew the eye to the horizon in all directions, and the peaceful star-filled night skies meant just one thing: this place had soul! Placitas and Bernalillo were originally Anasazi settlements before the Spanish arrived here in the 16th century. It is one of the oldest continually inhabited settlements in North America. Being incredibly rich in history, it was a place where I could take pleasure in living among the Hispanic family networks that surrounded me in the village, along with the many friendly gringos who had populated the hills over the years. "Here's a place to put down some roots," I thought, so I seized the opportunity to be grafted to the magnificent Land of Enchantment through its land and people.
MY destiny in Placitas unfolded as stages in a dream. My two daughters spent their childhood in the village. The blessings of clean, fresh air, truly great friends and neighbors, and the presence of the majestic Sandia mountains shielding me from the intensity of Albuquerque created a safe and peaceful setting and provided all the best elements for nurturing my young family. While driving home from Albuquerque I would marvel at the way my spirit was transformed upon entering this serene and magical place where I lived. I breathed deeply as I allowed the tranquil beauty of the pinon and juniper studded hills to soften the rough edges created by my own hectic routines and responsibilities as a mom and a business owner. It was Natural New Mexico, nothing artificial, contrived or out of place. Yes, as far as I was concerned, Placitas had it all.Our family enjoyed frequent outings to the Jemez Mountains, a spectacular 45-minute drive from Placitas. The dances and feast days at Jemez Pueblo seemed surreal. Jemez Hot Springs became a natural retreat for restoring body and mind. Placitas turned out to be a gateway to other worlds, accessible and remote at the same time.
Quaint and charming as it was, this first episode of my life in Placitas was to last only 13 years. When I left in 1988, my small adobe had doubled in size through additions. The apricot trees on our property were huge, and for two years straight I couldn't find the time to harvest them. It became clear to me that it was time to move on. I sold my house to a very appreciative California couple who still refer to it as "Pepi's house" when asked where they live. I felt more than a touch of melancholy on our last night in this truly enchanting home. We relocated to Santa Fe and during the four years I lived in the City Different, I reflected often on my extraordinary experiences during those happy Placitas days and appreciated anew how uniquely "Santa Fe-style" Placitas really was.
Destiny intervened again in 1997 when I built a home in Placitas Trails with a Santa Fe building partner. My plan was to sell the house, but I decided to move into it instead. It was more than my beautiful new home that drew me back to Placitas. It was much more than the familiar landmarks and vistas, or the proximity to the urban conveniences of Albuquerque. It was a wonderfully close-knit community to which I was returning. Seeing the former postmistress, Orcelia, working at the local grocery store, The Merc, in Placitas Homesteads, was my first clue that I had rediscovered one of the priceless treasures of my past. Orcelia and I traded photos of our grandchildren, and tried to make light of the gray hairs we'd sprouted through the years.
The Merc is a supermarket owned and operated by Homesteads developers Orville and Judy McAllister and their son, John. They have created a pleasant, low-key commercial plaza that offers services most wanted by the locals. The plaza has a branch of First Community Bank (with banking hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 6 pm on Fridays). La Bonne Vie Day Spa is a chic beauty salon, where facials and relaxing massages are available in addition to the normal salon services for hair and nails. There is Placitas Computers, the repair shop of a greatly appreciated ex-Intel computer whiz with extraordinary de-glitching powers. The Merc's plaza also houses an environmentally sound dry cleaner, a video rental store, and a lovely café with covered outdoor seating under a shady portal. Wine tasting every Friday afternoon at The Merc is becoming a favorite event for locals to meet one another, mingle, and share in the friendships engendered by a community starting to realize itself.
Placitas in the late 90's was bursting with new possibilities for me. My daughter and her husband bought a house in Enchanted Hills, which is at the northernmost edge of Rio Rancho near Bernalillo. The 6-mile distance between our houses takes us past a new shopping center on Highway 528, complete with a Walgreens, Raley's Supermarket, and several other prominent businesses previously located only in Albuquerque. Santa Ana Pueblo just recently built the magnificent Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa north of the Star Casino. It offers a 16,000 square foot full-service spa and fitness center. Santa Ana has an 18-hole golf course, and a new one is planned for the Tamaya Resort. Jackalope, with its exotic imported furnishings and pottery, dominates the western bluff overlooking the Rio Grande. The renowned Range Café in downtown Bernalillo is where my friends and family often meet. It's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, 7 days a week; having a meal there feels like coming home.
I am pleased with the few new subdivisions that have sprung up in the 40 square miles of Placitas territory which loosely define this unincorporated town. The new houses blend nicely into the landscape, and there seems to be a lot of elbow room on the spacious lots. I appreciate the southwestern architectural style found throughout the newly developed areas. Paved roads replace most of the dirt roads of the past, and underground electrical lines keep the views from becoming cluttered.
I joined the Water Board in my own subdivision, Trails, to participate in the operation of our community’s water supply. Though rumors of water shortages in Placitas have cycled from time to time like the spring winds, they have proven to be a lot of hot air. The Santa Fe Aquifer is the source of most of the water supply, and that is where Albuquerque gets its water, too. Walled courtyards throughout Placitas hide lushly xeriscaped gardens complete with colorful varieties of cacti, flowering sages, yuccas, and penstemmons, all being enjoyed by the residents in the privacy and peacefulness offered to them by this charming area.
Retirement has provided the opportunity for many people from out of state who have enjoyed visiting Placitas for years to actually become residents of their own dream destination. Several couples I know first discovered Placitas over 30 years ago while visiting, and they never let go of the hope of living here someday. Retired life for a Placitan could mean time to pursue interests in the arts, volunteering in local organizations or homeowners associations, or exploring the many US Forest Service nature trails that surround Placitas. Being near good hospitals and just 25 minutes from the Albuquerque International Airport are two reasons many retired people choose to make Placitas their home. Seniors, baby boomers and children alike share in the good life of this diverse community and peaceful hideaway.
From any vantage point it is obvious that Placitas sits on the very edge of the wilderness. I have encountered some of the wild horses and coyotes that share this habitat with the "two-leggeds." I am convinced that there is a magnetism that attracts certain people to live in Placitas. For some, this will be merely a place to pitch a tent for a season or two, but for others, like me, it will be the place to forge deep roots for generations.
Contact Pepi at 505-440-6003 (cell phone) and 505-431-7011 (direct office line) to learn more about the Placitas Collection- The Fine Art of Real Estate Land and Homes for sale in Placitas.