Madrid: A quick and colourful day trip from Santa Fe

Toronto Star, April 29:  Madrid, a town of a few hundred half an hour south of Santa Fe, is named for a town in Missouri not the city in Spain. Madrid (pronounced MAD’rid) has been through a number of incarnations since the 1880s when prospectors found coal nearby.

It was a company town until the mid-1950s when the mine closed. Then it was a ghost town until the 1970s when squatters brought their tie-dye and made it a hippie town. These days, artists, movie crews and Sunday drivers are transforming Madrid into a boom town.

The main drag is crowded with weekend visitors wandering through dozens of funky stores and galleries and stopping by the Mine Shaft Tavern for a burger and a beer. But not just any burger. The Mine Shaft is home to Santa Fe’s 2014 People’s Choice winner of the Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown. But plenty of people order the couscous avocado salad from the roadhouse menu.

Along with a steam train and a couple of winged cherubs, the mural behind the stage includes the words “Food, drama, life.” The Mine Shaft serves up all three. The back of a customer’s black T-shirt reads: ‘Brothers of Arthritis: Oxycodone Chapter. ’ The biker’s waitress is a former high school teacher and debate champion slinging cucumber jalapeno margaritas in pigtails and overalls.

“No one is from here,” says Melinda Bon’ewell, co-owner of the Mine Shaft. “Everyone chooses to be here.”

Bon’ewell and her partner left big corporate jobs in Seattle to move into a little house that once belonged to the treasurer of the mining company. That was 11 years ago. And ever since, she’s been enjoying watching Madrid hit its stride.

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