Thursday, January 12, 2012

Home Sweet Home: Tucson, Az

I find the prickly pear cactus to be quite beautiful.  Spectacular, even.  She is unique.  A survivor bearing fruit against all odds.  One would be wise to pattern one's life after her.

I have been witness to folks who visit my beloved desert and turn up their ignorant noses.

"I find the desert to be so ugly!  I prefer green trees and grass,"  they say.

I then give the speaker of this offensive speech a good firm shove into said prickly pear.  Themz is fightin' words, my friend!  I'll show you ugly!

My Irish pal, Vince, requested I write a post about Tucson for people who live in other countries and are not familiar with the town.  It would be my pleasure, Vince!  I love Tucson with my soul.

I have lived in Tucson for most of my life.  I lived in Germany as an Army Brat for a few years.  And I attended Brigham Young University for the last three years of college. I have, however, traveled to far, strange and distant lands (including South Carolina) and Tucson is and ever will be the owner of my heart.

As a child I grew up in Tucson's South Side.  A predominantly Mexican Mexican and Mexican American community.  I spoke Spanglish there.

One could say,

Dame dinero for an ice cream cone, Apa!

or conversely.

Give me money para un cono de nieve, Dad!

We all understood the flip flopping of the two languages.

In south Tucson I played softball, barefoot in the streets until dark to the comforting sounds of Mexican Corridos blaring from passing cars and barking stray dogs.

 I once witnessed a gang rumble in which one gang used scissors to stab the neck of an opposite gang member.

A black man exposed himself to me when I was 13.

I had 3 bicycles stolen out of my carport.

 I was smashed in the face with a baseball bat for having a white father.  I was not Mexican enough.

In south Tucson I learned to dance Mexican ballet Folklorico.

I enjoyed the benefits of an enormous extended family.

I ate carne asada and tortillas on a regular basis.

In south Tucson I learned to love my Mexican heritage.  I fell in love with Mexican boys wearing cowboy hats and boots.  I danced with these boys to cumbias and corridos until we could dance no more.

I had a pinata for my 16th birthday, made by my mother, in the shape of a heart.  We demolished it in the carport.  Then my friends and I danced to a battered boombox until vertigo.  Happy times, those.

When my parents began doing better financially we moved to East Tucson.  I was 16.

In East Tucson I learned that girls may not yank you by the hair in the High School hallway for looking at their boyfriends, like the South Tucson girls did, but they would certainly stab you in the back with a sharp tongue.  Many of the young women I encountered reminded me very much of the venomous rattle snakes so prevalent in our desert.

The cultural difference in predominantly white upper middle class Tucson was a shock to my system.  I had a very hard time adjusting.  Many of the girls were unkind and dismissive and the boys were terrified of me.  I was too curvy, too brown, too loud, too real, too Mexican.

There were, of course, a few people that were kind right off the bat but I had to learn how to behave in order to become accepted as one the general population.

I practiced my rich white girl accent until I had it down flat!


In East Tucson I learned how to temper my temper.  I learned I cannot say everything I think in mixed company.  I learned to be more refined in word and deed.

In East Tucson I felt more physically safe.  I enjoyed the clean air and open spaces.  I often jogged with my yellow lab, Athena, at 11pm by the light of the moon, dodging saguaros and outrunning skinny coyotes.  I often fell and would come home with blood running down my legs to which my mother would respond,


I have the scars to prove it.

I attended the University of Arizona for my freshman year of college.  Those wildcats sure know how to party!!  ...Which is why I was shipped off to the sober land of Mormons to finish my education.  (Some of the best three years of my life, by the way!)

I now live in North Tucson in the burbs.  I am a typical suburban housewife.  Soccer Mom extraordinaire!

Yup.  It's cool here.  Good place to raise kiddies. I do find the social situation quite political, but I'm workin' it out.

 I'm doing my very best to mingle with the locals.  I'm not sure I have quite learned the magic word required to be invited to play dates and brunch with these ladies. But I'm working on it...  I'm studying their bowel movements, eating habits and sleep schedules so as to become one with the community.

Whether one resides in the rich cultural neighborhoods of South Tucson, in a custom home with a view in East Tucson, in a dorm room at the UofA or in the burbs of North Tucson one thing remains constant.

The Old Pueblo has the most beautiful sunsets on the planet.