History / La Historia
Around 3,500 years ago, before the arrival of Spanish missionaries and before the European invasion, this spot along a precious desert river was stewarded by the the Hohokam ("The ones who are gone" in the Pima language). Master desert dwellers, they created canal systems to irrigate their crops of cotton, tobacco, corn, beans, and squash. Then, between 1350 and 1450, they disappeared-- possibly due to a long drought. They were eventually replaced by the Tohono O'odham in the early 1500s who would establish a small summer settlement called S-cuk Son, meaning "Black Hill" for the small black-rock covered mountain near the river. When the Jesuit priest, Padre Eusebio Franciso Kino, first traveled throughout the Pimeria Alta, they pronounced it "Tucson", and named the life-giving river the Santa Cruz.
Sold on the cheap to the United States in 1854 in the Gadsden Purchase, an anglicized version morphed from this ancient indigenous name: "TOO-sahn." The signature black rock hill that defines Tucson was named Sentinel Peak and is now affectionately called "A" Mountain, after the University of Arizona.
Culture /La Cultura
Tucson has grown from being a Mexican frontier outpost with a walled presidio (fort) to being a thriving desert city that predictably stripped and reshaped the land and its people in the image of the American Model, without the benefits of inclusion as equal citizens.
Persistence, pride, and resilience hold today's Mexican-American barrios together. They are clustered mostly around Tucson's West and Southsides, and long viewed as undesirable by investors until recent years. Once again, the pressure is on as out-of state land speculators are scooping up apartment complexes and development properties, jacking up rents to whatever they please. Families, including seniors, are evicted, and as wallets are emptied, homeless populations grow. According to Ward 6 Councilman Steve Kozachik, there is almost no local investment in housing stock in Tucson. Thanks to Arizona's Libertarian laws, nothing prevents ownership from disappearing into out-of-state pockets.
People are again looking to one another for strength and unity, and are establishing citizen coalitions to fight back.
The Border / La Frontera
The Arizona Borderlands were, until relatively recently, a land rich with shared peoples, cultures and commerce. Shoppers could cross with ease, and economies on both sides prospered.
In 1994, NAFTA promised new trade opportunities and prosperity for all. In the end, the winners in both countries were multinationals and elites.
Since then, financial stability has weakened, job security is gone, and options have dwindled. Economic inequality has stratified, delivering the nation's wealth to billionaires.
Social safety nets are attacked and intentionally onerous-- often tracked and managed by for-profit companies.
Forces seeing exponential growth are the Border Industrial Complex, trafficking, the global flow of migrants and-- as always-- America's insatiable appetite for drugs.
Our private prison system is the largest in the world, and our liberal gun laws keep the rivers of blood flowing and
Mexico is inextricably linked to the United States more than any other Latin American country. She is our mirror. What we give her, she reflects. Hold it up.
Do you like what you see?