Photo of a vibrant sunset with basketball hoop in the foreground


While some enjoy living in a big city that is a fast-paced and always feels busy, others find beauty in the simplicity that pairs with living in a small town.

PHOTO CAPTION: In Estancia, New Mexico, A Basketball Hoop Against the Backdrop of a Sunset’s Vibrant Hues. Photo by Marie Zamora.


Estancia, N.M., is a small, rural town 57 miles southeast of Albuquerque. Considering that this town has more stop signs than people, most people probably have not heard of it. Now living in Las Cruces for college, I am frequently asked where I am from. When I say that I am from Estancia, I oftentimes receive a confused look followed by “Oh, you mean Española?” Because I don’t want to go into too much detail, I simply say the “East Mountains” or “outside of Albuquerque.” Being away from home for nearly two years now, I realize that telling people where I am from is an important indicator of my values and culture. I can now see how coming from a small town and its ideals have been more influential to me than what a big city could offer. These benefits of small-town living can include improved safety, a better sense of place, and more simplicity.

It is no secret that New Mexico does not have the best reputation when it comes to crime and safety. However, when looking at data from the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, it is clear how small towns have significantly lower crime rates than bigger cities. For example, in 2021 alone the University of New Mexico Police Department reported 361 crimes and Valencia County reported a total of 2,167 crimes. By contrast, in Torrance County, the Estancia Police Department reported a total of 13 crimes (UCR, 2021). Similarly, across smaller towns in New Mexico such as Clayton, there were seven reported crimes.

Anyone who lives in a small town can probably attest to a feeling of security living there. They might tell you similar narratives of never feeling the need to lock the doors to their house or their cars. As a personal account, I have never felt uneasiness walking down the street in my small town, being out late, or going to any location within the town’s limits. Some might argue that this improved sense of safety stems from the culture that has presented itself in the town across generations.

I had the absolute privilege of growing up on 20 acres in a home that was built board by board by my dad and my grandpa. As a bonus, my grandparents were my neighbors. As a little girl, the only thing that stood between my best friends and me was a 100-yard dirt trail that my grandpa made with his tractor. My grandparents also grew up in Estancia and in a neighboring village called Torreon. The same values that they instilled in my parents and me were the ones that they were taught from the generations before me.

These ideals are the same ones found among many who have grown up in small towns. There is an accumulation of history, memories, and cultural and social identity that amount to a great sense of comfort. In these communities, specific ways of speaking, mannerisms, and even values emerge that all contribute to the sense of place for those who come from a small town.

While some enjoy living in a big city that is a fast-paced and always feels busy, others find beauty in the simplicity that pairs with living in a small town. A slower pace of life in a small town can come from the few businesses and services that are available. In Estancia, there are two gas stations, two dollar stores, and two restaurants. Although this may seem restricted, it promotes a simpler way of living. Furthermore, the culture and heritage in small towns often persists over generations, whereas in bigger cities they can change quickly. By having a simplified way of life, one might be able to reduce stress, promote better relationships and health, and create stability.

If you had asked me a few years ago how I felt about growing up in a small town my response would likely have been: “I hate it here and I can’t wait to get out.” But if you were to ask me now, I would answer with the same sense of pride that the rest of my town possesses. Living in a bigger city I have grown to appreciate the simplicity, safety, and sense of place that a small town offers. By having these values and way of living, I believe that we can improve our overall quality of life and sense of purpose. We can develop strong identities for ourselves and communities, gain a respect for tradition, and deepen our connections.

Photo of a silhouette of a windmill at sunset
A Lone Windmill Silhouetted Against the Sunset Skies of Estancia, New Mexico. Photo by Marie Zamora.
Photo of a bright red sunset in Estancia New Mexico.
A Leafless Tree Stands Against a Sunset in Estancia, New Mexico. Photo by Marie Zamora.
Headshot of guest blogger Olivia Thomas
Olivia Thomas, Blog Contributor.





Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this blog post/article does not necessarily represent those of the New Mexico Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.




Olivia Thomas is from Estancia, N.M., and is currently living in Las Cruces, N.M., where she attends New Mexico State University. She is a junior studying Management, with a concentration in Human Resources and Information Systems.