The residents of South Phoenix are at the forefront of the battle against the negative effects of Globalization and development run amok. During these past few months, I have witnessed their struggle to retain their culture and ethnicity.
Sadly, I have seen examples of the effects of Globalization around South Phoenix: big-box convenience stores replacing small traditional shops, first generation Americans who cannot speak the language of their parents, the development of rows and rows cookie-cutter houses that are beginning to resemble the planned communities of Scottsdale. It saddens me to see this happen to a city such as South Phoenix because it threatens the multicultural essence of the city and its inhabitants. I fear that increased development and capitalist Globalization will replace the diverse and colorful landscape of South Phoenix with a paler, more homogenous version of Scottsdale.
I find it ironic that we can ignore these neighborhoods for so long and yet we jump at the chance to destroy them as soon as the incentive of money is introduced. We can ignore over crowded classrooms, streets where pot holes outnumber sidewalks, streets without street lamps, neighborhoods crumbling under the weight of crime and drugs… and yet as soon as a developer is willing to put up homes that look the same, our city jumps at the chance to make South Phoenix look like a dormant urban utopia waiting to awaken.
Yet I find hope in the small shops and hidden neighborhoods I found while exploring South Phoenix. The people in these areas are clinging to their language and their traditions while the wrecking ball of Globalization stand ready to swing. The restaurants that serve traditional fare, the music shops that promote Latino music, the garden alters to La Virgen de Guadalupe. Maybe some of what I’m feeling is a type of colonialist nostalgia: a need to preserve some of what we have destroyed. There is danger in this preservation as culture becomes commodity.
I believe a balance can be found, however, that ensures the economic betterment of South Phoenix, while continuing and nurturing the diversity that sets it apart from other areas in Arizona. One possibility may be found in affordable housing projects like Habitat for Humanity’s South Ranch. This project allows residents to remain in the area (by building homes they can afford), while encouraging them to take advantage of the economic development going on around them. At the same time, these residents are able to form a community made up mostly of immigrants that could facilitate the continuation of their cultural traditions.
Development that keeps diversity at the forefront is also necessary. The City of Phoenix has taken steps towards ensuring that this development harms the least number of people as possible while still making it profitable for businesses to locate here. By holding public meetings about what type of development is to be done, the City of Phoenix is opening the way for South Phoenix’s citizens to guarantee the survival of the city.
The citizens of South Phoenix are the keys to the survival of the city. Their participation in the urban planning of the city is crucial. Along with community organizations, the citizens of South Phoenix must take steps to ensure they are not taken advantage of during this time of change and development.