Saturday, April 30, 2011


Sunnyslope, April 2011 (photo by Nicholas Hester)

E. Hatcher Road. Phoenix Arizona, 85020
Directions:  Head South on Rural, merge onto AZ-202 Loop West, drive 7 miles and merge onto AZ-51, take exit 5 for Glendale Ave and turn left, the turn right onto North 7th St. 

            The city of Sunnyslope has functioned as refuge to sick patients, refuge to Vietnamese and people from all over the world, and in some areas it functions as a 3rd border. 
Sunnyslope, Arizona, is a small community located about 15-20 minutes away from the Tempe area.  The towns name is Sunnyslope; however in 1959 the city was annexed by Phoenix and still kept its name.  Sunnyslope was once known as a health center where the sick coming from other states found comfort in the dry and sunny desert area.  Some sicknesses include asthma, tuberculosis, heart problems, or any other health problem irritated by the colder areas of the US.  Many found the climatic zone of Sunnyslope very effective.  Many sick patients were veterans from World War I and were living on limited pensions.  Sunnyslope was not just attractive to those who were sick; it seemed to be very attractive to those less fortunate who would come to the dry warm desert area to spend much of the winter months.  These people were called squatters (Ellis, 1990).
During the 1930’s, 90% of the apartments and cottages were rentals, meaning that the residents planned on staying in Sunnyslope for a certain period of time, mainly until they got healthy.  This was, however, not the case because once patients did get well, they decided that Arizona was the best fit.  Many of the patients who got better reinvested in home ownership, or went off to invest in businesses in the Phoenix area. 
The Desert Mission was established in 1927 and aimed to uplift the community by constructing a facility that would provide religious, medical, and social tools for people living in the community.  In 1936 there were approximately 600 residents living in Sunnyslope, and it wasn’t until the after World War II that the Sunnyslope community really flourished.  Local businesses began to open, and all levels of schooling up to high school were constructed.  Today, after decades of donations and planning, there stands the John C. Lincoln health network, which is the largest employer of the community.  The health center provides excellent health care and continues the Desert Mission that the Sunnyslope was founded upon(Ellis, 1990). 
In examining Sunnyslope as it is today, I stumbled upon an article referring to the town as “Little Oaxaca”.  The article highlights the community of Sunnyslope’s affordable housing, access to major bus routes, and overall poverty in Oaxaca as primary reasons why Sunnyslope is a suitable residence for new immigrants.  Because there is already such a concentration of Mexicans from Oaxaca, assimilation into the community is much easier.  Many businesses sell Oaxaca based products, most speak with the same native tongue, and new immigrants are often guided towards residences that do not require you to prove citizenship (Wingett, 2007).
In 1975, United States President Gerald Ford signed the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act, allowing refugees from Cambodia and South Vietnam to enter the United States.  Refugees were brought in and dispersed throughout the country, and Sunnyslope was one of the cities that took in Vietnamese refugees.    Sunnyslope also has a history of taking in refugees from others countries as well; today the elementary school says that their students speak at least forty-three different languages.  
            We decided to pick Sunnyslope because we found it interesting that a city so close to Phoenix had a history of taking in refugees from Vietnam.  We were very surprised to learn that the city had a rich history in healthcare, assimilation, and overall good relations amongst community members.  The first settlers came to Sunnyslope around 1911, when there were a few cottages, and today parts of the community look as good as any new home on the market.  I stumbled upon an article in Green Living AZ, highlighting Sunnyslope as a spotlight in the Phoenix, and here is a quote from that article: “hosting a diverse landscape of architecture, from tuberculosis cabins in the valleys to multi-story contemporary masterpieces in the mountains.”  This description was very true.  When we first drove through the city, we passed very small, yet well kept houses.  Once we progressed to the mountainside, the houses were very large and much more elaborate.  We couldn’t get very close to the nice houses because the areas were gated communities. 
  This most relates to Moctezuma and Davis’s definition of the 3rd Border.  Moctezuma and Davis define the 3rd border as architectural and legal barriers that have been constructed at precisely where blue-collar Chicano or new immigrant communities connect with upper income Anglo communities (Moctezuma and Davis, "Policing the Third Border").  The 3rd border applies to Sunny slope because more expensive housing is gated away from the rest of the Sunnyslope population.
- Nicholas Hester and Nancy Kahn
Works Cited
Sunnyslope: A history of the North Desert Area of Phoenix, by Edna Ellis, 1990. 
Sunnyslope is ‘Little Oaxaca. Yvonne Wingett.  Mar. 26, 2007. Local, Nation/World
Sunnyslope is the Spotlight of Modern Phoenix Week
By David M. Brown.  Green Living AZ.
Moctezuma and Davis, "Policing the Third Border"

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