Driving from Maine to Arizona

I just moved to Arizona to start a new job. Seeing America from the interstate won’t give you a complete picture of our land and its people. But it does give you one side of it.img_0931

Day 1: Maine to Pennsylvania

The northeast has an excess of idiot drivers. I mean tailgaters, people who drive 80 miles an hour on the shoulder, people who weave in and out of traffic. This was the slowest part of the journey because Boston to New York is one traffic delay after another.

Day 2: Pennsylvania to Indiana

Midwestern drivers are much more sane. And it really is true that people in the Midwest are among the friendliest in the country.

Day 3: Indiana to Oklahoma

We made good time on day three. Had lunch at a great locally owned BBQ joint in Missouri. You can’t find food like that in Maine (though in Missouri you can’t find seafood like they do it in Maine).

Day 4: Oklahoma to Holbrook, Arizona

There are a lot of tolls on the Oklahoma turnpike. It costs about $16 to drive from one end of the state to the other. On the plus side, they have great country music stations – Crank Hank plays old stuff as well as a few newer tunes.

We also stopped in Oklahoma City to visit the memorial for the 1995 bombing. The memorial is a great honor to those who died and those who survived. And it does bring back the feelings of sadness outrage that we all experienced 21 years ago.

Arriving in Holbrook, an Arizona mountain town just over the New Mexico border, I was shocked at how cold it was. For the first time since leaving Maine we had to scrape ice off the windshield in the morning.

Day 5: Arriving in Phoenix

Our new home! On the eastern side of the mountains there was more snow than when we left Maine. The western side is completely different – now you’re in the desert with cactus everywhere. Things finally warmed up a bit was we descended into the valley that houses Phoenix.


US History from a Latino Perspective

European colonization of what is now the United States starts with the English landing in Virginia and Massachusetts.

Well, not so fast, says Felipe Fernández-Armesto. In his book, Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States, Fernández-Armesto points out that in 1508 Puerto Rico became the first permanent European settlement in what is now US territory. St. Augustine, Florida and Santa Fe, New Mexico are also Spanish settlements predating the English.

Fernández-Armesto challenges us to read American history, not east to west, but north to south: as Mexico expanded into Tejas, California, Colorado and points between, it ran up against US manifest destiny.

The Mexican territory of Tejas, for example, had an illegal immigration problem: white Anglos were moving into the land they mispronounced as Texas, and they brought black slaves with them despite slavery being illegal in Mexico. There were wars (remember the Alamo?) culminating in the Mexican-American War, which Anglo-Americans have mostly forgotten, but which Mexicans and Mexican-Americans remember as well as Southerners remember the Civil War.

Following US acquisition of what is now the Southwest, property owned by Mexicans was confiscated, programs of forced Anglicization were imposed, and racial discrimination (including lynchings) began.

Yet, today we hear people asking, where did all these Hispanics come from?

Fernández-Armesto closes his book by explaining “Why the United States Is – and Has to Be – a Latin American Country” :

…the perspective advocated in this book [is] the United States as a country with a Hispanic past as well as a Hispanic future. Migrants from Hispanic America need not be feared as intruders: they can be welcomed as homecomers. Their language need not be treated as a threat, but relished as an enhancement and embraced as an opportunity. …In the United States we must make pluralism work because, paradoxically perhaps, it is the one creed that can unite us.