Spring break typically marks the start of tourist season in Marfa, Texas, when the streets fill with families from Dallas and handsome Los Angeles couples. College kids host late-night parties in Airbnbs. Influencers pose in front of crumbling adobe ruins. And every few weeks, we get a celebrity sighting: Guy Fieri riding a bike down the potholed streets, or Matthew McConaughey hunkering down to complete his book of poetry. A few years ago, a friendly street cat brushed up against Heidi Klum’s ankles at dinner, and a few days later, it was on her private plane, heading to its new home in Hollywood.
Until a month ago, complaining about the tourists was a low-stakes bonding activity around town. We grumbled about how they stood in the middle of the road taking pictures and how they wore bathrobes in public, as if they saw the whole town as an all-inclusive resort. (Maybe that cat really wasn’t a stray after all.) Even the tourists resented the tourists. “I was here during spring break two years ago and it was kind of disgusting,” a visitor from Los Angeles told me last year. “I just didn’t want there to be too many people like us here,” his friend added.
Now the streets are empty, as they are everywhere. But when the tourists disappeared, so did most of the service-industry jobs, which has been financially disastrous for some locals. Still, not everyone is unhappy with the situation: “I was out in town yesterday and noticed how quiet and calm it was, and couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief to feel that old feeling of what Marfa used to feel like before all the tourists and craziness of random people walking around,” PJ Serrano posted on Facebook.