Friday, November 12, 2010

Beyond borders: Arizona and Mexico

I (Murray) am a history buff. I subscribe to the philosophy that only fools are bound to repeat it. Arizona has a special place in American history. At first it was part of New Mexico. To establish a commercial base (i.e., slavery), southerners moved in to the area now known as Arizona during the mid 19th century and unilaterally called it a separate territory. The federal government ultimately recognized the area by drawing a straight north/south border between what is now Arizona and New Mexico.

The two states do, in fact, differ substantially in the make up of population and politics. New Mexico has a substantial Hispanic population who are descendants of people who were Mexican before the Mexican American War. By contrast, Arizona was settled by easterners, primarily from the south.

Looking at a relief map of Arizona, there is a mountainous area in the north that falls off to flat land. The south end of the mountainous area was the original border between Mexico and what was then the Territory of New Mexico. The land to the north was ceded to the United States after the Mexican War and contains the present day city of Phoenix. Native American tribes, Commanches and Apaches, were the primary residents, and Mexico was glad to put the defense of Mexicans who were constantly raided by the tribes onto the U.S.

Some southern leaders were concerned that northern interests controlled commerce into California and were making it a free state. A small, but powerful group of them, saw the potential of increasing their influence (particularly slavery) in southern California, and splitting the state in two, one slave, one free. In order to accomplish their goal, they sought to build a railroad from an eastern terminus in El Paso to California. The only problem was the mountainous terrain that they would have to traverse.

Mexico's President, Santa Ana, was in dire financial straits. He was concerned that the U.S. was considering another invasion and needed funds for the Army. A deal was struck to cede the flat area seen on the relief map above to the U.S. This area also includes a small strip of land in the present state of New Mexico. The large area in the relief map that is centered by the present city of Tucson, is know as the "Gadsden Purchase," named for the principal proponent of the southern link to the west coast.

This area was sparsely populated by Mexican farmers scratching a living on what is mostly desert. The current border was fixed as a line in the sand leaving relatives on both sides of the artificial border.

During seventy years after the Gadsden Purchase, it was commonplace for Mexicans to cross the border to visit relatives and to work in the U.S. Many stayed and became citizens.

We lived south of Tucson in the center of the Gadsden Purchase for two years (2004-2005) and visited Nogales, Mexico, on a regular basis. In 2004, crossing the border was easy for anyone. Then the drug gang troubles hit on the Mexican side and the streets of Nogales became deserted of tourists, businesses failed and crossing the border required scrutinized documentation for everyone.

The existence of illegal immigrants in Arizona, particularly Phoenix, has gone unrequited for many years. The illegals provided cheap labor and business and the citizenry looked the other way taking advantage of this near slave labor.

The recent growth in drug trafficking led a majority of Arizonians to accept a stark law enabling local police to carry out federal law that may be in conflict with the U.S. Constitution. It is an outgrowth of the inability of the U.S. Government to control the border with Mexico AND the inability of law enforcement in Arizona to control the traffickers. The issue is NOT illegal immigrants that has existed since the first immigration acts were passed in the early 20th century made entry to the U.S. illegal.

From my perspective, it is the geography of Arizona today represented only by an arbitrary line in the sand instead of the original natural mountainous border of 1845, the strained historic relationship of the U.S. with Mexico, and the racial attitudes of early settlers that are the foundation of the problem.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

NY Times, Pittsburgh Steelers, and an Art Exhibit

How does the NY Times, Pittsburgh Steelers and an Art Exhibit fit together? Well it really does and came as a total surprise to both Murray and me as we researched some statistics related to our blog. This week I took a course on Search Engine Optimization and learned about inbound links and how they can help add credibility to one's website or blog. After an excellent class, part of WESST's networking and Training here in Santa Fe, I came home and discovered that Author and Artist had an inbound link from the New York Times. "Now that is high on the authority/credibility score" was Clare Zurawski's comment when I reported the link to her the second day of the course she was leading.

OK... so now what was the link? Written by Eric Dash, it was published on September 18, 2010 titled, "The Steelers at the Intersection of Iron City Beer and Art Basel." It features how "football and cultural life are so intertwined" in Pittsburgh and particularly focuses on a exhibit at the Miller Gallery of Carnegie Mellon University which opened on August 27 and runs through January 30, 2011. The Author and Artist Blog is linked when Dash talks about the "life-sized statue of running back Franco Harris's Immaculate Reception" that greets visitors to the Pittsburgh Airport. Here's the link to the NY Times article and you can link back to our article when you see the "life-size statue" highlighted.

Murray took the picture when we arrived at the Pittsburgh airport at the beginning of April 2008. We were returning to our home town of Pittsburgh to help with the Obama primary. What a trip that has proved to be from our picture with now President Obama at the Pittsburgh Airport, to great time spent with friends and family, to having this inbound link from the NY Times, not to exclude seeing Franco and other stalwarts of the Steelers' Dynasty at a Steeler Rally for Obama.

I end with a fantasy. What fun it would be to tour the "Whatever It Takes: Steeler Fan Collections, Rituals and Obsession" at the Miller Gallery of Carnegie Mellon University with my father-in-law Joe Tucker. Of course that is not possible. Joe died in 1986 and Murray has written a wonderful book about his father that I hunch many of our blog readers have enjoyed. It's called Screamer: The Forgotten Voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I can imagine Joe's enthusiasm and delight at the exhibit which "focuses on fans not as consumers but on fans as producers" with all kinds of imaginative displays. A description of the exhibit points out that the fans are "a creative force that modifies dominant culture into something much more personal and collectively creates the Steeler Nation."

Alas... living now in Santa Fe I doubt that I will get into Pittsburgh to see the Exhibit. We would love to hear from people who have seen it and if someone would like to write a guest blog on the Exhibit we would welcome that.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Immaculate Reception Proven

There has been much concern about this particular play for over a generation.  We finally have definite proof that the catch was legal and that the Steelers won the game.   These four photos show the play in detail and are taken from NFL Films.

As a very loyal fan of the Steelers for over 60 years this is one of my favorite plays.

1. Bradshaw fades to pass eluding rush

2. He gets the ball away

3. The ball clearly contacts Raider's Tatum while both he and Fuqua go for it.

4. Franco catches deflection at shoetop and races for winning TD.

For more Steeler and Pittsburgh sports visit my website

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Starting a new nonprofit organization: Healing Voices - Personal Stories

For the past two months I have been busy starting a new nonprofit organization called Healing Voices - Personal Stories.  Creative juices are flowing and I'm excited about this new project.  Of course I'm still painting but as I have mentioned in this blog before, I'm missing the collaborations that directing the Avodah Dance Ensemble provided.   Now I've found the collaborations in a new way.

I've been sharing the fun that I have been having exploring the film industry here in New Mexico and how much I have enjoyed being directed.

Now this has taken me in a new direction.  Motivated by my work leading dance workshops in women's prison I am part of a founding board of Healing Voices - Personal Stories where we hope to create and distribute films to raise public awareness of women's striving to overcome abusive trauma.  Our organization now has a beginning website and a blog that I will be posting on every few days.  I hope that some of the subscribers to our Author and Artist blog will subscribe to Healing Voices - Personal Stories too.

Murray and I will continue to blog here as well.