Reader Edwardo Quintana recently suggested I call Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and urge her to welcome Afghan refugees to Santa Fe and house them in dormitories and apartments at the midtown campus.

The governor’s not likely to take my call, and I think the spaces are currently occupied with other populations in need, but Quintana’s spirit of generosity and bienvenidos is a hallmark of Santa Fe and has been for generations.

In 1992, Santa Fe was selected as one of 15 American cities to welcome and resettle some of the 1,000 Tibetans allowed to emigrate from refugee camps in India and Nepal. A well-stablished Santa Fe organization called Project Tibet stood ready to ease the transition.

The Dalai Lama had toured Northern New Mexico in April 1991, visiting pueblos and even riding the chairlift to the top of Ski Santa Fe. He reportedly said the pueblos and mountains reminded him of Tibet and the pueblo leaders looked like cousins.

Part of that settlement process connected the growing community with Mike Loftin, then executive director of Neighborhood Housing Services, the precursor to Homewise. Loftin was planning a subdivision in the first phase of Tierra Contenta called Los Portales. His organization established a Tibetan Loan Fund for down payment assistance for Tibetan families eager for homeownership in the new south-side neighborhood.

By the mid-’90s, some 20 Tibetan families had settled in the neighborhood, and prayer flags strung across portals were soon flapping in the wind. The community grew and built the Bodhi Stupa in 1997 that graces lower Airport Road. Twenty-five years later, they are Santa Fe friends and neighbors.

Tibetans, with their persecution by communist China and a charismatic leader of a religion many Westerners embrace, might seem easier to imagine in our midst than those from a country we have been at war with for 20 years.

Islam, the religion of peace, is also the religion of the Taliban.

Now, 120,000 Afghans could be coming to America. As many as 50,000 of them reportedly are Afghan American citizens or legal residents who rushed back to Afghanistan to rescue family members. But many of the thousands only know America from their days helping our soldiers in the endless war. They don’t yet know the depths of our ugly prejudices nor the sincere warmth of our welcomes.

Which will they find in Santa Fe and New Mexico?

There is not yet a Project Afghanistan today like there was a Project Tibet in 1992. But there are a number of Afghans already here and in Albuquerque. There also are welcoming mosques, including Masjid Al Rahma in Santa Fe whose imam, Sheik Ibrahim, says he has more than 50 families from 40 different nationalities. It is a mosque that welcomes all sects, including non-Muslims. It is integral to the interfaith organizations doing good works in Santa Fe with members of Jewish synagogues and Christian denominations.

One connection we do have with Afghanistan that we did not have with Tibet is a large community of military veterans who spent time in the country of the refugees. Sometimes as combatants, but often as friends. It is those friends who made the mad rush to planes leaving Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

There are more still there who will undoubtedly make every effort they can to join their brethren in the country they literally pledged their lives to help. We owe them our support. While it’s true there isn’t enough housing for those already here, our hearts and resources are big enough to overcome the challenges.

They say Northern New Mexico looks like Afghanistan. Let’s welcome Afghan refugees here and make them feel at home.

Kim Shanahan has been a Santa Fe

green builder since 1986 and a sustainability consultant since 2019. Contact him at

(5) comments

Pam Walker

Somehow I just do not understand this. Why can't the folks in other countries stay and fight for their homeland? It would be a little different if they came to America ready to blend into our ways of life. But no, Santa Fe is turning into Mexico with food trucks everywhere, special Mexican food on the shelves in the Walmarts and most grocery stores, more and more signs with both English and Spanish and the list goes on. Now at least 20,000 Afgan folks brought in and what will they bring. So many folks still on the street here but welcome even more people that need to be housed and fed. And who is going to pay for this? The hard working American people, thats who.

Kathleen Gygi

Oh please Pam, get a grip. You are not threatened. And if Santa Fe restaurants served less expensive meals there would not be so many food trucks. And if the Latinx workers were not here, who would do the work? The latest group of political refugees will contribute to the vibrancy and success of the US just as many have done previously.

Jim Klukkert

Pam Walker- Yowza Woo!

1. "Santa Fe is turning into Mexico," well Srta. Gringa Nueva, Santa Fe was part of Mexico until the Imperialist Mexican-American War of 1846-48. Of that war of conquest, our 18th President, Ulysses S. Grant, who served in that conflict later wrote “For myself, I … to this day regard the war … as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.” You may also recall that Henry David Thoreau actually went to jail rather than pay war taxes.

2. !Hola amiga nueva¡ Tu escribe “more and more signs with both English and Spanish.” It is a shame, Miss, that you do not know that the New Mexico has many languages, including English, Spanish, Navajo, Keres, Zuni, among others. The use of these languages, and the respect shown towards other cultures by these and other cultures, predates you arrival, either by birth or other transport. ¿Did you wish that we change our ways, or perhaps you would prefer to move to Tejas o Arizona?

3. Pam Walker, you write “Who is going to pay for [the influx of Afghanis who supported the US interests in Aghanistan, now arriving here as refugees]? The hard working American people, thats who.” I suppose Pam Walker, you did not object to the US paying, according to Fortune Magazine, “about $136 million dollars per day on the war every day for nearly 20 years, as well as a total of about $25,000 for each of the 40 million people living in Afghanistan. And these costs may be low estimates.” I suppose you did not critcize the former President, Donald Trump, for throwing the Afghan government, military, and most importantly, the Afgan people under the bus in his agreement to unilaterally withdraw from that nation by Spring 2021?

Your deficits in the history of this state, and in compassion for the victims of American Imperialism, are breath taking.

Chris Mechels

The name for these people would seem to be; "collaborators", but that doesn't sound so nice does it? I would prefer they stay in their own county, Afghanistan, and help to repair the damage our troops did, with their assistance.

Kim Griego-Kiel

You mean, you’d prefer they stay in Afghanistan and be murdered because they had collaborated with American soldiers.

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