U.S. 64, N.M.

Along the highways through big mesa land
The traveler turned to light
Discovers paths the spirit travels.
Great scopes of sky & stone,
The face of wild and momentary things
The spirit raining light defaces into light
Again, like light surrounding water-lying land,
The far, land-glancing light
The traveler finds along remembered hands.
from Light Years, by J. M. Ferguson, Jr.
D. W. Meinig recently wrote that "regions are defined by what is enregioned and thus will likely vary in extent and character with each shift in focus from one topic to another-or so I believe." Quoting his Southwest: Three Peoples in Geographical Change, 1500-1970, Meinig stated, "'Regional delineations should emanate from the purpose of the study.' Thus the search for some 'best' or 'clear' or' consensus' definition that might apply to perspectives ranging from physical geography to social history to aesthetic response-or whatever, is elusive, and, ultimately, futile." His wisdom and common sense deserve respect.
But, for those of us who want it-need it-passionately, we can define the Southwest. It is here to be defined. Gerald Cassidy and Carl Sauer and Mary Austin and Sharlot Hall and Charles Lummis were not bamboozled. We get from the Southwest, Laura Adams Armer said, "the urge to live, the impulse to survive so apparent in a formidable land; ... [the sense] that nothing stands alone in the universe.... The earth in process, becomes a symbol of mutability in the Southwest, understandable and obvious." The Grand Canyon, she wrote, "tells its story of millions of years of upheaval and erosion ... there is a nakedness about the Southwest, a bald truthfulness and at the same time there is a sense of the hidden. The secret does not lie thinly veiled. It is deep down at the heart of things, only to be glimpsed after patient digging."
One thing difficult to understand about the Southwest's landscape is the comment that the Southwest is "inspirational." For some of us the place is not inspirational, except to the most brain-dead vegetables. Quite the opposite; the place overwhelms you; it leaves nothing to the imagination and it is intimidating. Hyperbole is the norm here, the run of the mill, nuts and bolts, meat and potatoes. Gothic cathedrals may be inspiring; they show the masterwork of man. But how can mere human beings "be inspired" by the Grand Canyon? That place is more than awesome, more than humiliating, it knocks you down a peg or two, does not lift you up; and it reminds you of how insignificant you are. Descriptions of the Southwest invariably wax hyperbolic. But is hyperbole even possible here? Of all places in America, the Southwest's physical presence dominates one's awareness.
The few outstanding native Southwest writers-Luci Tapahonso, Leslie Silko, Rudolfo Anaya, Marguerite Noble, and Eva Antonia Wilbur-Cruce-must ignore the "beautiful, cruel" setting, for like all natives everywhere they take the landscape for granted and focus their observations on concerns more unpredictable and dynamic, on the more inconspicuous but very real creatures and activities that populate this obscenely, grotesquely attractive and captivating region of the planet.
Carpetbagger Southwestern authors such as Tony Hillerman, Charles Bowden, John Nichols, Ed Abbey, and Bill Eastlake perceive the Southwest as a "site" or "stage" or "location" or "backdrop" for the expression of these writers' not necessarily uniquely Southwestern regional interests: manhood, politics, romance, ecological disaster, detective mysteries, rebellion, ethnic conflicts, honor, independence, and anti-urban, anti-industrial attitudes and beliefs. These are very legitimate concerns, regionally and universally. But these transplanted authors appear to be observers of-more than participants in-the region's dynamics, tourists rather than natives. On the other hand, the native Southwestern writers focus more on their own intimate and personal relationships with the region's physical and cultural landscapes. These autochthonous authors display the consequences of a "natal imprint," they write more of "moods," "connections," "home," "family," and "place"-of the one- ness, for better or for worse, of the immutable bond between people and their native land.
Southwestern architect Henry C. Trost wrote in 1907, "The atmosphere of the Southwest is wonderfully clear. The mountain masses are rugged and their shadows and contrast are sharply defined. . . . The horizons are infinite-long, distant level lines, broken only by the far-off mountains or the scrubby desert vegetation against the sky." And despite his vicious ridicule of the Southwest escapist mentality, D. H. Lawrence wrote in 1930 of the early-morning Southwest landscape: "It had a splendid silent terror, and a vast, far-and-wide magnificence which made it way beyond mere aesthetic appreciation." It is hard to believe that we are so intellectually refined in nuclear physics, mining, banking, entertainment, horse breeding, computer science, and many other areas of human knowledge, but so unrefined in regional identification. Perhaps most people simply to want to keep it personal and subjective. Maybe they think the quaintness will be lost and the fun will be gone if we develop and agree upon a strict definition. In fact, perhaps it is the vague romanticism and imprecise quaintness that acts as a sop and an antidote to too much empirical science and too much precise technology. Sterile knowledge has no texture; formulated (as opposed to speculative) science has no mystery.
In two ways, clearly, the Southwest as defined here is a distinctive reality: it has a unique physical geography, and it has a pluralistic ethnic makeup. That part of the region lying south of the United States- Mexican political boundary is still very Mexican, but Anglo investments, agribusiness, values-TV, hamburguesas, Nike shoes-and maquiladoras are making Sonora and Chihuahua more like the United States than vice versa. The impact of United States culture and values, materially and otherwise, has been infinitely greater on Latin America than the obverse. Dislodged from their historical context, the Southwest indigenous cultures have become a veneer of "quaintness."
But tourists don't know that. They, and the more permanent grants, too, see the presence of "authentic" Mexican restaurants, even the conglomerate-corporate-controlled Mexican food franchises popping up in malls and shopping centers all over the United States, as evidence that Hispanic culture is enduring and substantial. With time, if the people of the world don't vaporize themselves first with some of the various doomsday devices developed at Los Alamos laboratories, the United States' physiographic and climatic southwestern quadrangle will become less and less "Southwestern" while Chihuahua and Sonora will, like most of the rest of the world, become more and more Americanized and Anglicized. Oriental immigrants to the United States these days waste little time in becoming proficient in aping the native Anglo- European Americans. In fact, so much so that in many cases it should be threatening and frightening to pedigreed Puritan Mugwumps. Within only a few years and across America the Vietnamese, Japanese, and other East Asian people have become more successful mainstream Americans than are the tenth-generation, Protestant, white-skinned indigenes.

New England's Legacy: Cultural Colonialism

Is the Southwest, as many people quoted in this essay assert, culturally and politically different from the rest of the nation? Is it regional in law, food, tempo, politics, ambitions, morals, concepts of status and such? Despite chicken fried steaks, green chili chimichangas, and Navajo fry bread, which by now are spreading rapidly throughout the nation, and in no time, the world, most of the Southwest's Safeway stores carry the same frozen TV diet dinners, ham and eggs, tofu, and steak and potatoes found in New Jersey or Oregon supermarkets. While it may seem logical, there is no visible connection between the "cool" and "laid back' qualities supposedly found in contemporary California and the "splendid, idle, mañana land" described in romantic turn-of-the-century California history books.
Vestiges of certain laws from Spain related to water rights and marital community property can be found in the Arizona law books. But these particular statutes do not constitute the foundation of jurisprudence in the Southwest. In fact, Spanish water law, that is, the law of "prior appropriation" as opposed to the Northern European "riparian rights" legal tradition, happened to suit the particular interests of Arizona's nineteenth-century commercial agriculture and the states mining companies. Were it not for this very all-American motive, the Spanish laws would not have been perpetuated.
As far as lawful community property rights are concerned, Arizona has been in the national vanguard of gender equality for more than a hundred years. Women were wanted in the godforsaken place in the late nineteenth century, so the men found Hispanic community-property rights to be an enticement to lure eastern females to the West. And the leadership in this movement came from reform-minded Yankee Mugwump types, not Arizona's Hispanics.
Some of the cliched veneer can, of course, be found in New Mexico. Habits, traditions, "old families," and the like abound in that state. But the more vital and numerous young people are leaving the old, moribund Hispanic villages of the Rio Arriba to go to the University of New Mexico and work in a clean, high-tech Albuquerque industry so as to have suburban homes, RVs, orthodontia for their children, and vestment in a good pension system. There are, it is true, scattered remnants of the old Hispanic period of occupation, but they are declining in importance and visibility.
The number of "traditional" Hispanics, despite a general population growth of this ethnic group, continues to decline. Some of these older people, if they are not too proud, will take advantage of "liberal" government food-stamp programs, as will some young families, in a proportion equal to that of other segments of American society. But in another generation or two their descendants will be fully assimilated into the American mainstream. They will forget their language and other cultural legacies, become conspicuous consumers, and vote Republican. Even today, about as close to their heritage as some Mexican-American children get is a trip to the nearest Taco Bell fast-food franchise. Although late in doing so, New Mexico-like eastern Europe and the U.S.S.R.- is now moving from formalism to functionalism at a rapidly accelerating pace. A similar process characterizes the Arizona and New Mexico Indian tribes.
In his classic novella The Bear, William Faulkner attempted to explain that America's baronial myths were part of a very old legacy. Americans, North and South, Faulkner said, had escaped to a "new world." Here, they believed, they had found a "continent dedicated as a refuge and a sanctuary of liberty and freedom from ... the old world's worthless evening." Western Civilization, corrupt and decadent and moribund, was infected with the evils of social tyranny, economic despair, and political dissolution. Unavoidably-and naturally-germs of greed and suspicion, fear and vanity found their way across the Atlantic with the first colonists. The new land was "tainted before any white man owned it ... as though [carried] in the sailsful of the old world's tainted wind which drove the ships." Thus all America had been "born lost."
In Faulkner's view, this infection produced a variety of pathological symptoms. The Southern regional myth with its "respectability" and "refinement" was a crude, cosmetic, homespun regional shawl draped to hide the crippled national body. The puffed up, vacillating, and oxymoronic qualities of effete vigor, arrogant doubt, sweet despair, and a "glowing sense of doom" permeated this perspective. If there is a present or a future, Faulkner felt, it is envisioned in terms of a mythical past. In The Bear Faulkner catalogued the investors and bankers and corporate agents and politicians who were the infectious carriers of the entire nation's terminal malaise. This included the South, and by our inference, the Southwest, too. Mankind's potential for virtue in confrontation with nature is profound. But banks and railroads and real estate speculators are more "natural" and certainly more "American" and much more attractive than the "frontier" way. Contrary to Frederick Jackson Turner's "frontier" theory, the nation's traits that were retained and came to characterize and dominate all of America were the degenerate traditional traits from the Old World. The virtues Turner claims grew out of the American frontier experience to become part of the American character, were, according to Faulkner, the very ones which slipped away.
Conspicuously, despite the Southwest's physiographic uniqueness and ethnic heterogeneity, the region's cultural qualities, when reduced to their most essential and significant substance and potency, appear clearly to be the same as those found in Boston or Cincinnati or Dallas or Seattle or Miami. The operant culture (as opposed to the affected style) of the region-its laws, official language, politics, religions, and ideologies, and the dominant tastes in music, food, automobiles, and vacations, with only a few colorful exceptions that highlight the general rule-represent national and global preferences more than anything "regional." The supreme irony-among many ironies-of this regional self-awareness lies in the fact that at the very time the Mugwumps were spinning their back-to-nature fantasies about the Southwest, the vanguard of urban-industrial America was rapidly developing in the very same place. Cultural geographer Wilbur Zelinsky has written,

the various Hispanic-American and aboriginal groups swallowed by the dynamic Anglo-American frontier were minor sources of influence for the national culture. . . . Despite the stubborn roman- tic inclination to believe otherwise, the settlement frontier cannot be credited with the origination of any important inventions, ma- terial or otherwise.... In general ... the frontier played a passive role in the American cultural drama.
By the end of the eighteenth century, cultural leadership had passed on to the more developed portions of New England, then rapidly ascendant in commercial and manufacturing activity. Throughout the nineteenth century, this region was clearly the most fecund and powerful, setting an example for the whole country in many departments of higher human endeavor. By virtue of the vigorous out-migration of New Englanders and the diffusion of ideas and objects through other means, the national patterns in industrial technology and mechanical devices of all sorts, higher education, science, literature and the other fine arts, theology, political ideas, manners, and the domestic and public architecture were largely controlled by this single small region.
In fact, the cultural geography of nineteenth century America can be described, without serious exaggeration, as the continual pumping and spraying outward to west and south of a great array of novelties, locally invented or imported from abroad, from the New England reservoir.

The Mugwump mind brought-and continues to perpetuate-its cultural colonialism in and about the Southwest in two very powerful, enduring, totally contradictory, and nonindigenous forms: the Heroic Triad mythologies, and the Puritan mainstream. Charles Lummis may have identified and extolled the wishful bliss of poco tiempo, but, as a compulsive Boston workaholic and status-seeker he brought with him, too, Faulkner's germs "of the old world's [and New England's] tainted wind." Apart from some moribund nucleated pockets and self-conscious ethnic enclaves (you'll see no television antennae at Taos Pueblo; the tourists would pout-and leave), today's Southwest's dominant modus operandi and modus vivendi, in terms of everyday values and attitudes, are derived from mainstream Anglo-American traditions. Corporatism, capitalism, reason, agribusiness, organizational participation, materialism, conventional Democrats and Republicans, and worship of the GNP make up the foundations and other basic structural components of Southwest "culture."
Santa Feans read the Wall Street Journal while they savor their gourmet posole and menudo. Phoenix Rotarians may wear bola ties and cowboy boots, but they vote Republican, eat steak and potatoes, and go to the Presbyterian church for the same reasons that rep-stripe tie and tassel- loafered Boston Rotarians do. (Actually, the men in Phoenix who wear tassel-loafered shoes probably outnumber, numerically and proportionately, those Bostonians so shod. And during a sartorial rage a few years back, cowboy boots probably sold better in Boston than they did in Phoenix, one of the few conspicuous examples of Turner's thesis.) A commitment to disposability; planned obsolescence; and the ubiquitous American God, the GNP, together with its bitch-goddess consort "Success," with a liturgical pattern of beliefs and rituals and practices and penances more holy than catechism, baptism, confession, and the stations of the cross all combined mark the Albuquerque Hispano-Catholic businessman in the same way and to the same degree as they do his Anglo-Catholic counterpart in Indianapolis. Increasingly, we can expect to see these changes accelerating in Sonora and Chihuahua, too-every- where below the 29th Parallel-and throughout the world, for that matter.
Macro-enviromnentalist Theodore Roszak has found what seem to be entropic symptoms in all this:

The international unities that matter significantly remain those of trade, warfare, and technics: the unities of power. The world is being bound together by the affluent societies in ingenious networks of investment, military alliance, and commerce which, in themselves, can only end by propagating an oppressive urban- industrial uniformity over the earth. Yet there is no lack of "forward- looking" opinion makers who accept that uniformity as the highest expression of a world culture. They mistake the homogenized architecture of airports, hotels, and conference centers-which is as much as many jet-set intellectuals ever see of the world-for an authentic sharing and synthesis of sensibilities....
In another two generations, there will be no primitive or tribal societies left anywhere on earth-and they are not all giving up their traditional ways because they freely choose to. In another three generations, no self-determining rural life. In another four generations, no wildlife or wilderness on land or sea outside protected areas and zoos. Today there are few societies where official policy works to preserve wilderness and the old ways of life as serious alternatives to the urban-industrial pattern; at best, they are being embalmed and tarted up as tourist attractions.
Of course there are those who think the accessible counterfeit is far superior to any reality one must take pains to approach and know. After all, the whole force of urban-industrialism upon our tastes is to convince us that artificiality is not only inevitable, but better-perhaps finally to shut the real and original out of our awareness entirely.

The Hopi resisted and turned back both Diego de Vargas and the Church of Rome, but they cannot resist Wal-Mart and Michael Jackson and Boeing 747s.
The baronial model, that fanciful, reactionary, agrarian alternative imagery of the Southwest, is just that-a painkilling fantasy. It offers a momentary and vicarious escape from big government, the madness of urban-industrial uniformity and conformity, vague laws, a frequent and nagging sense of impotence, and a strong but still uncertain awareness of an immobile and undefined elusive purpose. Contrary to Turnerian concepts of the frontier, much of the Southwest was-under this manipulative and mercantilistic system-urban, industrial, and aristocratic before it developed into anything else. In the Southwest one can see the late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century American transition from an entrepreneurial, experimental, technologically unsophisticated, individualistic economy and society to the finance-centered, scientific, specialized, "expert," corporate form that characterizes mainstream America today. If anything, the Southwest should be an obvious and easily identified example of everything the Mugwump-type romanticists, past and present, say it is not.
So, there is then still today, a great deal of misunderstanding and ignorance about the historical, cultural, social, economic, and political nature of the American Southwest. People living in this region have swallowed the Mugwump Heroic Triad bunkum painkiller as much or even more than have those living elsewhere. While the very cutting edge of the nuclear age and its unthinkable reality can be found right in our Southwestern front yard (or playground, to squeeze the metaphor further) and still, even now after the Cold War has gone, moves the world toward some unimaginable incineration (don't forget Khaddafi and Hussein), most Southwesterners continue to wallow in the infantile comfort of a bogus heritage with its crudely concocted images of noble Navajos and casas adobes con vigas y estuco.
More realistically we should recognize-in the most passionate political way-the Southwest for what it is, a region whose landscape and extractive potential long ago made the arrea an integral and complementary part of the American Industrial Revolution and the atomic age. In fact, as is true of the rest of America, industrial, commercial, corporate, governmental, and bureaucratic interests for the past 140 years or more have always sponsored and manipulated all the developmental aspects of the Southwest-economic, political, social, and, thanks to the Mugwumps, cultural. Anglo Arizona, for example, was industrial and corporate before it was in any substantial way pastoral, agrarian, commercial, or recreational. In fact, were it not for such technological developments as telegraph and power lines, railroads, atomic reactors, automobiles, computers, refrigeration, and hydroelectric turbines, few people would be here today. Moreover, huge plundered profits derived from the Southwest's natural resources over the past 120 years have contributed greatly to the rapid expansion of American self-capitalization-and to the trust accounts of Boston, San Francisco, and New York investors.
Interestingly, the most compelling indigenous Southwest authors- Leslie Silko, Rudolfo Anaya, Eva Antonia Wilbur-Cruce, and Marguerite Noble-primarily write about the past; that is to say, they know the difference between the present and the past. The immigrants, on the other hand, write stories that are contemporary, yet contain all the ingredients of the mythic past. These perpetual tourists-and ephemeral tourists, too-see, hear, and smell cliched Southwestern ambiences and environments. Native writers feel the "presence" of the land, but because they take it for granted, are not so calculated and self-conscious about it. They indicate no awareness of the classic regional cliches, even as history, while carpetbaggers like Ed Abbey and John Nichols attempt to do just the opposite and try to make us believe that viable remnants of the old cliched images still persist by putting the Heroic Triad in a contemporary setting and time frame. Their vision of the Southwest reflects a fabricated awareness of the region in the same sense that the "Santa Fe style" of furniture and architecture reflect the superimposition of external curiosity and romance of the early and current twentieth century.
The wonderfully sensitive-and politic-geographer Yi-Fu Tuan tells us: "The American Southwest reminds us how little the popular image of a place depends on scrupulous historical knowledge.' The manipulation of the region's imagery knows no limits. Early-twentieth-century Southwest tourist extraordinaire Mabel Dodge Luhan didn't want plumbing to be installed in Taos Pueblo; she thought it necessarily quaint that the Taos women carry their jars of water on their heads. (Did they carry out their chamberpots that way, too?) This attitude has not changed. Today's shorts-clad, camera-draped tourists want the Southwest to be a collection of sterile museum dioramas that reflect their own antiseptic epidermal sensibilities.
Bioregionalist Peter Berg wrote: "The boundaries of a bioregion are best described by people who have lived within it, through human recognition of the realities of living in [one's native] place." And bioregionalist Judith Plant has said that "bioregionalism gives us roots, not just history," a way "for knowing one's people and place is the ancient way of survival and its memory is stirred by our yearning for home." In the light of these perceptions, it seems to me that before we can understand the Southwest realistically we must first develop a sense of place based on a view that looks from the inside out instead of the New England Brahmins' and the current trendy environmentalists' perspective of looking from the outside in.
A person can never fully adopt someone else's culture; not even Ron Ives and Amado Muro could do that. In this regard, we might listen to the words of the distinguished Mississippi regionalist author Eudora Welty who, In the Eye of the Story, wrote:

It is by knowing where you stand that you grow able to judge where you are. Place absorbs our earliest notice and attention, it bestows on us our original awareness; and our critical powers spring up from the study of it and growth of experience inside it. It perseveres in bringing us back to earth when we fly too high. It never really stops informing us, for it is forever astir, alive, changing, reflecting, like the mind of man itself One place comprehended can make us understand other places better. Sense of place gives equilibrium; extended, it is sense of direction, too.

Smog, acid rain, hunters ("sportsmen"), deforestation, overgrazing, mountain bikes, mining, urban blight and suburban sprawl, high- voltage transmission lines, jet plane contrails, homes "with a view," water ranches, ATCs and dune buggies, dams, thousands of square miles of concrete and asphalt, summer homes, and new roads to every nook and cranny of the region are rapidly changing the physical features of the Southwest. As a cultural region, whatever might at one time have been "native" to the Southwest has been disappearing for a long time, too. In the meantime the immigrants and the tourists have brought their bourgeois tastes and escapist preconceptions with them and have taken it upon themselves, in a reckless and mean-spirited way, to tell the world what this region is "really like," thus also destroying the original cultural landscape.
Southwest natives could never see their own culture as "enchanting" or "quaint" or "amusing." Nor could they ever perceive their own daily, local landscape as "breathtaking" or "glorious." Those people, emigrés and natives alike, who would like to experience a more dignified, subtle, rich, and multilayered version of the Southwest as a region, should open their minds and their hearts and listen to the words of Eudora Welty ... and to the native writers of this region. Then they may be able to begin to salvage-physically and spiritually-whatever is left of the Southwest's original uniqueness.

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