Phoenix is big. In fact, it’s the fifth largest city in America. It’s big in a way that many people don’t anticipate, with a landscape encompassing mountains, rivers, lakes, desert, farmland and an ever-growing and evolving downtown.
This complex city oftentimes catches people off guard. It gets in your soul and inspires you, whether through its stunning sunsets or the best Chiles en Nogada you’ve ever tasted.
The best way to learn about such an expansive and diverse place is through the individual stories of its inhabitants—the ones whose very existence evangelizes the wonder and worthiness of a destination.
In the videos below, a few of Phoenix’s inhabitants introduce you to a side of the city you maybe haven’t met. The spirit of Phoenix has gotten into the veins of these folks, inspiring them to put down roots or start a business. Their stories might give you a new appreciation of Arizona’s most famous metropolis—which, it must be said, possesses a downright Texas-sized personality.
Sebastian Sandersius, crafter of lifestyle accessories
You can find Sebastian Sandersius sculpting custom leather goods in his downtown Phoenix workshop. Why downtown? It was the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of the neighborhood that inspired Sandersius and his three brothers to set up there and grow the family business, Ezra Arthur, named after their grandfather whose legacy they honor with the care and craftsmanship they put into every piece they create.
Maya Dailey, farmer
When the Sonoran Desert is your home, you’re connected to the natural world. That’s how farmer and independent business owner Maya Dailey explains her passion for plants and why her certified organic market, Maya’s Farm, has its roots in the urban core of metro Phoenix.
Jacob Cutino, hot sauce creator
Jacob Cutino was inspired by his stepfather’s passion for hot sauce. While busy with a full-time career in the restaurant industry, Cutino spent years experimenting with recipes in his spare time. That passion led him to perfecting a hot sauce with an unmistakable burst of flavors reminiscent of the desert itself. His Homeboy’s Hot Sauce products are now used by a who’s who of the Phoenix culinary scene—and devoted locals in their home kitchens.
Silvana Salcido Esparza, chef and activist
Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza was born in L.A. and grew up in California’s Central Valley, but she says Phoenix is her home because “I came here broken, and this is where I healed.” Esparza now owns a few restaurants in Phoenix, but her first—her bebé—is Barrio Café, on 16th Street, in Phoenix’s unofficial “Mexican Midtown”. This is where Esparza poured her family legacy and love of Mexican cuisine into an enterprise that has made her one of the most beloved restaurateurs in all of Arizona.
In Phoenix, somewhere between a saguaro selfie and a poolside cabana, are friendly dive bars to explore, great music to discover and street art to stumble upon—all wrapped in a stunning desert backdrop.
There’s something about sunset atop South Mountain, or the bluesy tunes in a cozy dive bar, or the cactus blooms in a tucked-away garden that encourages wandering spirits to get comfortably lost.
They say we’re not like other cities. We say that’s our best feature.