Saturday, September 29, 2007

Cultural Bumping, Part 1

I'm taking a course in the American Southwest this fall, and one of our texts is a book by Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez entitled Border Visions. The author describes "cultural bumping" as a process in which one culture bumps into another culture which can result in defeat, change, assimilation, or refreshment of one or both of the cultures. "Human populations often may become more distinct but sometimes more similar after bumping into one another."

While Vélez-Ibáñez is using this concept to describe major historical change over hundreds or thousands of years, I think it's also an interesting way to look at more recent change. There have been so many immigrants to this country in the past 100-200 years, and each group has brought its own cultural history with it to "bump" into the existing US culture and continue to change and enliven it.

Today this blog will start another new series in Southwest observations, that of "bumps" observed around town and on the road. I've already begun addressing this topic in the "Not Quite Spanglish" entries, part 1 and part 2.

On a recent trip north, I drove about two and a half hours from Santa Fe, a beautiful drive up Route 285, and stopped for lunch in the first town over the Colorado border, Antonito. I ate at a Mexican-American restaurant called The Dutch Mill. It was clearly a local hangout, and the food was fabulous. But I loved the incongruity of the sign (pictured above), which features the name of the restaurant, an illustration of a windmill, and the slogan "serving Mexican and American food".

Inside, more cultures clamored to be heard. The sodas were served in Japanese Coke glasses, and a small sign claimed that Antonito was where The Wild Bunch was filmed. The adjoining barroom next door (traversed to find the restrooms) was right out a movie about a small town in the west (sawdust floors, neon beer signs) but the restaurant itself was decorated with posters of impressionist art, including one from an exhibit at the Museum of FIne Arts in Boston.
Only because I loved the look of the building, I've included a shot of the Palace Hotel (established 1890) next door.

Just two miles after leaving Antonito, I drove through the most beautiful stretch of lonely highway fringed with yellow wildflowers and populated only by herds of cattle.

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