Best Nest: Red Hot Chile Peppers 

Ana Marie Argilagos, SIS/BA ’86, president and CEO of Hispanics in Philanthropy and a member of President Biden’s Advisory Commission on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics


Illustra­tion by
Shaw Nielsen

illustrated map of Santa Fe

I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I am a proud Boricua, but I’m also the daughter of Cubans who fled Fidel Castro in the revolution. I grew up eating Cuban black beans and Puerto Rican red beans. Now I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Mount Pleasant in DC, behind the National Zoo in Rock Creek Park. When I sit on the back deck, I can hear the gibbons singing and the lions roaring. In between, I’ve lived in Miami, Costa Rica, and Boston for graduate school.

My favorite thing about living in Santa Fe is the sunsets; they’re glorious. And the light is beautiful. Even on the coldest winter day, it’s bright and sunny. But the biggest challenge is everyone is early to bed. Don’t get hungry after 9 p.m., because everything is closed.

A perfect visit to Santa Fe includes cafecito at Downtown Subscription; a hike at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, which has amazing cone-shaped formations that look like you’re on the moon; art galleries and the Saturday farmers market at the Railyard; and margaritas, either at the Bell Tower Bar on the roof of the La Fonda hotel or at the local hangout, the Dragon Room. I’d also recommend Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return, which features 70 rooms of immersive art.

Santa Fe and DC both have an international feel with very interesting people. If I could transport one thing from DC, it would be my four-month-old nephew, Leo. But DC can keep its humidity and mosquitoes.

You know you’re from Santa Fe if you ask, “red or green [chile]?” (I prefer “Christmas”—a bit of both.) In 1996, the New Mexico Legislature passed a House Joint Memorial declaring that our official state question. You know you’re from Santa Fe if you wear jeans, boots, and turquoise jewelry. You know you’re from Santa Fe if you eat blue corn enchiladas.

In my time living there, Santa Fe has changed most in that we now have stable internet 95 percent of the time. I live in an 1875 adobe with walls so thick it made connecting to the internet very challenging. If the pandemic had happened 15 years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to work remotely. The biggest misconception about Santa Fe is the tricultural myth that [permeates] all of New Mexico: that Native Americans, Latinx, and White communities live together in relative harmony. But that [overlooks] the contributions of Black New Mexicans.

When I need to get away, I go to Isla Verde Beach in Puerto Rico. That’s where I learned to swim [as a child] and now it’s my place to recharge. I also travel a lot for work with HIP, which has a footprint across the US and in Central and Latin America. Our mission is to build, fund, and fuel the Latinx community, and since 1983, we’ve invested $78 million in philanthropic capital in nonprofits to empower our community and help them live just, prosperous lives.

But my nest is best because it’s where my family is, where my stuff is. I love to collect mementos—even if it’s just a rock from a hike. Surrounding myself with those things reminds me how grateful I am to have such a beautiful life.