Marfa, Texas: Mayberry Meets Greenwich Village

Each year, the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Great Places series highlights towns and cities that are working to create successful, sustainable communities. Marfa, Texas, is one of the 2013 Great Places.

| October/November 2013

  • Marfa, Texas Main Drag
    The main drag reflects Marfa’s Mexican heritage.
    Photo Courtesy Dschwen

  • Marfa, Texas Main Drag

Each year, MOTHER EARTH NEWS selects a handful of communities to highlight in our annual Great Places feature. Check out the other towns featured in our 2013 installment of 9 Great Places You've (Maybe) Never Heard of.

Marfa, Texas. Being off the beaten path isn’t mere geography in Marfa, Texas (though, given its location in the Chihuahuan Desert in way-out-West Texas, the description certainly applies). It’s also a state of mind and a cultivated lifestyle. If you were to say Marfa’s in the middle of nowhere, many residents would respond, “Isn’t that great?”

In Marfa, both traditional Hispanic and weather-beaten Southwestern styles take their place alongside Texas kitsch, as well as world-class music, film, visual art and multimedia installations, all in less than 2 square miles among the high-desert creosote and silver sage. It’s a place chock-full of emptiness, one resident says, and the people attracted to it are a proudly eclectic lot.

Jon Johnson grew up on a cotton farm south of Marfa and moved away for several decades before returning in 2004 after his retirement. The residents he knew in his youth were primarily ranching families and the Hispanic community — which makes up about 70 percent of Marfa’s permanent population. Johnson now owns Planet Marfa, a combination beer garden and salon space where wide-ranging discussions and ad hoc philosophizing take place in an enormous tipi. Since moving back, he’s observed three other distinct threads emerge in the town’s human tapestry.



“There’s a diverse and lively retirement community,” Johnson says. “The merchant community is also vital and energized, and our latest community is the artists, who have contributed so much to Marfa’s quality of life and its personality.

“We all get along because it’s like a small high school: You can’t have a really good party unless you invite everyone.”



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