Albuquerque is aka as "the land of enchantment, land of entrapment, the 505, burque and ABQ. all of which I hate and refuse to use but thought some people might be interested to know.
I feel compelled to write this review because I have been using this site for a few years and haven't posted yet. After reading the posts about Abq, both good and bad, I'd like to offer my two cents. I am a transplant to Albuquerque. I moved here when I was 14 from a greener and more pleasant land, England. It was total culture shock for me and I have yet to get over it. I graduated high school and went to college here, in fact I have just returned to college here as an adult to continue my education. I am now 40 years old and have three children. I have always known that I wanted to leave Abq from the moment I got here but I made choices as a young adult that prevented me from doing so. That said, I will offer my opinion as logically as possible based on the criteria that most people use to judge what makes a good vs. bad place to live.
1. Culture- We have little diversity outside of what is Hispanic, Native American or European descent. African Americans, Chinese, Eastern European or anything else is a rarity but you do still see some on occasion. Our restaurants are mainly American, Mexican, New Mexican or Fast Food. We have about 75% of the major fast food and casual dining chains found in the US. It is amusing that when we get a new chain, such as PF Changs or Pei Wei, people flock to it for months to get a feel for what a "real" city has to offer. We have an aquarium that takes all of 10 minutes to walk through. A zoo which is quite large and has some nice features but some disturbing issues as well. Twice I have come across bothersome situations at our zoo and reported it to security. I walked around the corner in an isolated area to find a girl standing topless agains an animal exhibit while some guy takes pics of her. Granted I go to the zoo in the middle of the week and in the off season when it is less crowded but come on! My kids saw the first incident but thankfully they were probably too young to remember. Fortunately they didn't see the second. We have a few museums and a bit of art but nothing compared to bigger cities. We don't get many good exhibits, shows or concerts but it is getting better over the years.
2. Climate-Our climate is ideal for some. Lots of sunny days. Many people, especially older people or those with asthma, arthritis or health concerns love the climate here. It is very arid and usually lends itself to being outdoors. We get a few snow storms that come through and leave a small amount of snow. It is usually gone by the afternoon or next day because the intensity of the sun is so great. The summers are too hot for me but some feel they're great. The sun is very intense and we have a high rate of skin cancer so expect to wear sunscreen. Most homes have swamp coolers not air conditioners so when the humidity is high in the monsoon season (July/August) the combination of increased humidity and heat (90+ degrees) is unbearable to me. Generally, I do not like the extremes we have here. Very hot in the summer with temperatures frequently above 90, very cold in the winter with temperatures freezing or below at night and in the 40's in the day. But as I mentioned, many people find it quite tolerable and there are always people outside enjoying out door activities.
3. Education-Extremely low educational standards. Consistently ranking in the bottom 10th of the US. APS (Alb. Public Schools) is poorly run, makes a great effort to cover the low rankings by continually LOWERING the standards so that it appears more students are passing. There is a strong blue collar work force here and an "old school" mentality that almost shuns higher education. Last I checked, the required GPA for entrance to the University of New Mexico was a 2.0. Really? I am in the medical field, my husband is a scientist. Almost everyone we know with school age children send their kids to one of the 3 main private schools we have here.
I encourage anyone thinking of moving here to do your own research and compare our education system to that of the rest of the US and beware. It is in bad condition here. English is spoken here as if it is a second language. Probably because for a lot of families it is. The problem is that the slang reflects that. Here's an example of a few sayings. "get down from the truck, turn your cigarette off, out of battery"
4. Cost of Living- No doubt about it, it is much lower here than most places in the US especially other cities this size. No tolls, parking is plentiful and cheap on the odd occasion that you have to pay for it. Houses are inexpensive, property taxes are fairly low, food and gas is very inexpensive. Even day care and preschool is very affordable comparatively. This is one of the pluses to living here. But dare I say, you get what you pay for?
5. Work Force/Jobs-There is an odd income distribution here. As mentioned earlier, we have a lot of blue collar jobs. What we also have a bit of, that throws the income distribution off, is Sandia National Labs which I believe employs about 2000 people. Most of those are high earners in the 100K+/year range. There is some technology based around the labs and defense contracts from Kirtland AFB. Intel (in Rio Rancho) employees quite a few people but those stats would likely fall under Rio Rancho which is the next town NW of Abq. There have been lots of businesses closing and laying people off. Jobs are becoming more difficult to find even for professionals. To be fair, I think it is mostly a reflection of the current economic state of the entire country.
6. Recreation-Moutains, high desert, remarkable views, amazing sunsets, interesting geographic oddities (carlsbad caverns, ice caves, tent rocks) You can ski, hike, rock climb, cycle, camp, snowshoe just about all year. I don't because I don't like the extremes in temperatures but lots of people can handle it better than I can. I do ski, camp and cycle when the temps are suitable for me. I have learned over the years, with much patience and education, to grow an amazing garden but it is quite an art here. I am one of the few people who can successfully grow potatoes but I use raised beds and make my own compost. Tomatoes, squash and corn do well here with little effort. The soil is either sand, clay or granite and requires lots of amending to support growth but with determination and patience it can be done. There are certain tree, shrub and plant varieties that do well here and it is worth knowing what those are to avoid frustration. Visiting one of the local garden centers will help you determine what you can and can't do. But beware, do not move here from a green and moist environment thinking you can get things to grow that you grew some where else. You will be disappointed.
7. Crime-As I mentioned, I work in the medical field. I see a disturbing amount of polysubstance abuse. Granted I generally see people at their worst, not their best. Espanola and norther New Mexico (Santa Fe and surrounding communities) have incredibly high rates of heroin use. Our police officers carry an heroin antidote drug called Narcan so that if they find someone down and unresponsive they can assume it is a heroin OD and administer Narcan! Wow! Meth is another big problem here. I see people using meth that you would never in a million years peg for a meth uses. Intel employees, lawyers, real estate agents and school teachers. Think Breaking Bad... and don't forget all the ugly behaviors that go along with crime. Violence, oh by the way, we have one of the highest rates of murder per capita in the US. Yes, Albuquerque, really. Theft, child abuse rates are so bad, as is domestic violence. We just had a case where a ONE MONTH old infant was RAPED and subsequently died from internal bleeding because mom's boyfriend (she managed to get a new BF a month after giving birth... priorities I guess!) who was not the father of the baby... was coming down off of meth and was irritated that the baby was crying. So I guess this guy thought the answer was to rape the infant. Okay, I hope they take care of him in jail. Mom was at Walmart while this was happening. Need I say more? well, I will...
Gangs, gangs and more gangs. They are disgusting and scary. Poor socioeconomic factors seem to make the gang life more appealing to youths. Those that aren't a part of them are still influence by them and it creeps into the schools and general pop culture. Lots of people walking around with their surname tattoo on their neck (incase they forget, or maybe so if they're found dead they can be identified? I dunno) Boyfriends name on the breasts, kids names categorized by which father they came from. It's tacky and gross. I've worked in Labor and Delivery and Mother-Baby as a nurse. The families and situations that kids in Abq are born into are distressing. We would all be so happy when a normal, semi-functioning nuclear family came in to have a baby. It was like a breath of fresh air.
I have also worked in ICU where of course we had trauma and a bunch of death. Depressing and scary and a lot of it was gang related OR someone caught in the cross fire. My sister was a burn and wound care nurse. She left because she couldn't handle all the kids she had to treat. Kids under the age of 10 who are burned, dipped in vats of hot oil, dads who stick garden hoses up their children's bottoms because they're angry they soiled their pants. Cigarette burns, one infant was stuck in a sink full of hot water and suffered 3rd degree burns. Many of these crimes take time to act on. You have to FILL THE SINK full of water. That takes thought and time to prepare. People here are just disturbing but the fact is, it is what they grew up seeing and it is a vicious cycle that continues with each generation. I know these are horrible, graphic details but this is the reality of what happens here. I've seen it for the past 15 or more years working in the medical field and it isn't getting better, it is getting worse.
So in closing, we are now trying to relocate. We have given this place every chance we can. It is time to leave. Enough is enough. I do not want my kids to be any more influenced than they already have been. They are even starting to speak as if english is their second language. I can't have that. We are so influenced by the New Mexican culture that we are loosing our own identity and it makes me sad. That isn't fair to us or them. They deserve a better place with more opportunity and higher standards. Another writer posted something about how because the education system is tough here it will prepare them for real life. That is not true at all. All it does is handicap them for anything outside of theses 4 walls. How can you possibly be competitive elsewhere when standards are higher everywhere else. So bottom line, if you are moving here to retire, this may be the place for you. If you are moving with kids or as a single person hopping to start a family, look else where. Since we announced to friends and family that we are thinking of moving, not a single person has said we should stay. Everyone has said that it is probably the best thing we can do for our family. That in itself speaks volumes.