As usually happens when you meet a new acquaintance, they ask where you live. The conversations goes like this:
- Me: “Hi, nice to meet you.”
- Acquaintance: “Nice to meet you as well, are you from around here?”
- Me: “Yes, I’ve always lived in Orange County. I grew up and still live in Santa Ana.”
- Acquaintance: “Oh. Really?? (Insert incredulous look of surprise here. End conversation about residences.)”
Santa Ana gets a bad rap. Just like any suburban/urban city, Santa Ana has changed over time, and has some of the same struggles other urban cities have. But no one has that look of surprise when you say, I live in New York, Chicago, etc. I find it curious and somewhat frustrating. My husband and I have lived in this city our entire lives. Our first home we bought was in Santa Ana, as is our current home. My parents live 1 mile away. His about 5 miles away (same street as us now, actually). Both our parents live in the same houses we grew up in. The longevity of my personal focus group might suggest that there’s something to this place that everyone seems cautious about.
However, there are very few places behind the Orange Curtain (Orange County, the “OC,” that is), where you can find:
- Fantastic food
- OC’s best museum
- A diverse community
- And yes, a bit of grit
I think it’s the OC mentality that OC is a small place and it’s fundamentally suburban. Safe. Santa Ana, however, is more urban than suburban. Santa Ana is far bigger than what it gets credit for. It’s far safer than it gets credit for (Thanks to the SAPD, one of the only PD’s in OC with a mounted horse team. Very vintage eh?). It’s far better than what it gets credit for.
Recently, however, one group of people has been impressed and positively curious when I have told them where I live: Young People. Perhaps they haven’t been told the stories. Perhaps they have a more open mind. Whatever it is, I’m grateful to see the perception of my city moving in a positive direction.
I am Santa Ana. We are Santa Ana. This is Santa Ana.