In 2001, while camping around New Mexico with a good dog, I fell in love with the tiny town of Madrid at first sight. I have written four of my seven novels here, in an ecstatically iconoclastic community.
In other words, Madrid is the valley of Misfit Toys. It’s the world’s largest open-air insane asylum. In Madrid, they say, the odds are good – but the goods are odd.
Whenever visitors learn that I’m a writer, they inevitably tell me that I ought to write about Madrid, and tell its stories. I always reply, “I can’t. Nobody would ever believe them.”
That’s why I am creating this oral history tour, to preserve the authentic account. It’s how I wish to thank the town which has been my home since 2001, the home I’ve looked for all my life.
When coal was discovered in a parched, rugged valley of New Mexico, the town of Madrid was born. As a boom town, coal-powered incandescent Christmas spectaculars drew 15,000 visitors daily, from the 1920s until World War II. With seams of both hard and soft coal, Madrid’s mines supplied all the power to build the Atomic Bomb in Los Alamos.
And then, practically overnight, economics dictated that coal mining in Madrid be abandoned. The entire town was put up for sale in 1954. There were no buyers.
Yet another ghost town, condemned to dust and rust … until it was rediscovered after two decades by a handful of brave souls. Freaks, hippies, outlaws and artists resurrected Madrid in their own image. There was a measure of mayhem.
With perhaps the most artists-per-capita in America, Madrid is in renaissance today, boasting a remarkable range of galleries, goods and services. How this town was reborn can only be understood by listening to its original eyewitnesses.
The tour is a GPS-based smartphone App. On their phones, visitors will be guided along by listening to tales of Madrid, as told by the people who lived it. The VoiceMap platform already has a roster of self-guided walking tours across the world: from Madrid, Spain to Madrid, New Mexico (coming soon!).
The Kickstarter campaign only ran from mid-June to July. Like the local Bingo fundraiser, it had the goal of raising money for the recording costs associated with producing this tour. Crowdfunding proved so successful that my project's working capital is significantly higher than its original, modest budget. This means great things for the Oral History Tour.
Coffers bulging, I intend to seize this opportunity by expanding the scope of this project. I can now record fifty hours of stories, while still being able to offer fifty dollars per hour to the contributing storytellers. In addition, I've been able to purchase the equipment necessary to begin field recording, which means that I can travel to the homes of those distinguished Madroids for whom travel is inconvenient.
This project simply wouldn't be happening if it were not for the heart-murmuring generosity of these magnificent, faithful people. Thank you.
Brian Mayhall Bill Kennard Robert Poliner
Nancy Dransfield Marsha Adler Sachin Teli
Carol Carpenter Cara Olson-Kolb Oakley Biesanz
Charlotte Jusinski Bernadette Jusinski Trey Corkern
Elisa Keir David Jacangelo & the Jacangelo family
Sara L. Wice Larry Goldberg Melissa Ewer
Gregor MacDuffie & Maria Grande Elaine Baskin
Tom Moran Peter Hopewell Elaine Ikeda
Bill Fenstermaker Bill Adler Nicholas Helfrich
Maralyn Lois Polak Michelle Smith Stavo Craft
Stephanie Coulthard Gina Pierce Evan White
James McGrath Morris Marsha Fonteyn Ellen Dietrich
Sue Hopewell Christin Boyd Andrea Fiegel & Jada White
Alain Marcelino Constance Moss
The first-ever audio walking tour for the irreverent town of Madrid, NM -- once abandoned, now a thriving artistic community.
Oral History Tour of Madrid, New Mexico
novelist and screenwriter