Saturday, April 30, 2011

Garfield District

Map with historic Garfield District highlighted (Source: City of Phoenix

Site of what was originally the First Missionary Church, April 2011 (photo by Susan Haslett)

Bounded by Van Buren Street, Roosevelt, 16th St, and 7th St

 The Garfield District in Phoenix and other cities in Maricopa Country have historically attributed the settlement of these cities to Anglo settlers. This historic neighborhood spans from as far south as Van Buren Street to as far north as Roosevelt, as far east as 16th Street and as far west as 7th Street. Whereas Tucson readily recognizes its contributions made by Mexican settlers, it appears that the Mexican contribution to Phoenix is largely missing (Oberle 2008). It  appears, then, that the Anglo community in Phoenix had a vested interest in establishing hegemony, as defined by Antonio Gramsci (Omi, 1994). The Garfield District, however, paints a different picture.

Upon visiting the Garfield District, on the northeast corner of 9th Street and McKinley is a church, built in 1928 and first home First Missionary Church. Only a couple houses down is the fifth oldest house in Phoenix, considerably larger than the houses surrounding it. These, among several others in the Garfield District are considered historical buildings in Phoenix and are protected, meaning they are sanctioned from demolition, as well as having any structural changes made to them, in an effort to preserve what remains as part of the original Phoenix settlement.

Walking east on Roosevelt, past 11th Street is a newly painted mural. This mural depicts themes of what appears to be Mexican indigenismo, a call back to the indigenous roots of Mexicans, illustrated where Mexican natives are seen dancing and native symbols painted. In addition, there are prominent figures, such as Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King, Jr., and a more local figure known in the Mexican immigrant community, Salvador Reza, who is a leader of the Puente Movement. There is also an image of a wall where many multi-colored (as in the colors of the rainbow) people seem to either be trying to knock the wall down or put it up. On the other side of the wall, there are only two people, one orange, the other red, trying to resist the force of the many. Further down is a girl in a cap and gown in front of a blazing logo of the City of Phoenix, and to the right of it, a paletero (popsicle man) and a complete family. The vibrant colors incorporated into this mural help to send the message of a reinvigoration in this community, which is largely Latino, and rings truest to immigrants in this community. It seems apparent that the muralist highlighted, also, the value placed on family and education, amidst a pride for Phoenix. In otherwords, they are recreating their own space, trying to rebuild it as one that undoes the Anglo racialization of space, and implanting one that reflects pride for Mexican culture. Whether or not the community as a whole fully embraces these themes depicted, this is just one part of an effort to help instill a sense of pride among a particular group of people, as well as encouraging this group of people to adopt these values as their own, as is traditional of Mexican muralists such as Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros (Goldman, 1982). 

- Susie Haslett, Tomas Robles, and Elenia Sotelo


Goldman, Shifra M. Mexican Muralism: Its Socio-Educative Roles in Latin America and the United States. Aztlan. Vol. 13. 1982. 111-33. Print.
Oberle, A. P. "RESURGENT MEXICAN PHOENIX*." Geographical Review 98, no. 2 (2008): 171.
Omi, Michael and Howard Winant, Racial Formation in the United States (New York: Routledge, 1994): pg 65-67.

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