Tucson is truly a city with personality, heart and soul - all accompanied with a blended mixture of sounds and rhythms. According to Traveler magazine published by Conde Nast, Tucson is the "Friendliest City in the Nation". An impossible claim to document, it certainly makes a statement about Tucson's people.
While its roots go back to the beginning of recorded history, Tucson has a young, dynamic population and is just large enough to offer the perks of a big city and small enough that natives express outrage if there is a ten-minute delay in traffic.
It is a big city by virtue of its land mass - at 226 square miles it is four times larger than San Francisco. Money magazine recently ranked Tucson as the fifth "most livable" medium-sized city in the West. Because of its casual, welcoming atmosphere, Tucson was included in the book 50 Fabulous Places to Raise Your Family (Career Press). In addition to rating Tucson schools as "excellent" and describing its employment outlook as "one of the fastest-growing job markets in the U.S." , the authors offered this ultimate high praise: "If you were to go to a drawing board to create the ideal urban environment of the new century, you'd be wise to use Tucson as a model."
The abundance and low price of land continues to provide Tucsonans with a wide range of housing styles and communities. Based on cost of living indexes, housing is far more affordable here than in many areas.
Sounds and Rhythms
Mariachis strum and trumpet into the night. A country western star croons before yet another sell-out crowd. The Tucson Symphony charms its impassioned followers. A Mexican trio romantico serenades an audience of active retirees. Reggae and rock fill the night air around the University of Arizona.
These mixed sounds provide the musical backdrop in a city where the majority of Tucsonans have relocated to the "Old Pueblo" from elsewhere. If you were to ask ten people on the street where they grew up, only three will say Tucson. The rest, in accents that cover both coasts, north to Canada and south to Mexico, will say someplace else.
Yet despite its immigrant fabric, the city itself epitomizes the heart, soul, architecture and ambience of the Southwest. This is evident in a downtown ringed by adobe homes that more resemble a Mexican pueblo than a major American city.
Even with sleek skyscrapers, the city remains defined by the ornate and distinctly Southwestern styles of St. Augustine Cathedral, the Pima County Courthouse, the Veterans Administration Hospital and dozens of turn-of-the-century homes.
It is evident in the street names and the language, Spanish is a first language to one in seven Tucsonans. Such is the connection to Mexico that residents can buy three Mexican daily newspapers here on the same day of publication. Several flights link Tucson daily with what was once its motherland.
But listen carefully. If the language you hear is not Spanish, it may be Yaqui or Tohono O'odham, the languages of earlier settlers. Or it could well be German, French or japanese. Foreigners sojourn to Tucson for reasons of culture, climate, commerce and medical care.
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