Freeze Frame:  Moooo

    On the corner of 7th Avenue and Tamarisk, I found myself looking into someone’s backyard, and possibly taking a glimpse into their life.  It was not your average backyard.  It had all the normal aspects that any backyard has: a chain link fence, green grass, and a pet dog roaming the yard.  This yard was different though and the small cow grazing on the green grass was a dead giveaway.  In the yard with the small cow, and dog, there were two middle-aged Hispanic men drinking beer relaxing on a couch that sat in the garage.

            At first glimpse I was thoroughly amused at what I was seeing.  A cow grazing in someone’s yard is not a foreign idea to me, but if you place that grazing cow in one of America’s largest and fastest growing cities it suddenly becomes amusing.  That is until I take a big step back and look at through the different factors that make it seem normal to the two Hispanic men wondering what the hell a car load of ASU students, Dax, Mike, Gerald and I were doing taking pictures of their cow.  In other words, take a walk in their shoes.

            These different factors include ethnic, cultural and economic differences that make South Phoenix special and explain the presence of a cow in such an expansive urban city.  I imagine that the cow was to be butchered for a celebration such as a wedding or quincenera largely because a majority of South Phoenix residents are Hispanic.  That does not explain why it was in their backyard.  Many families from many different cultures, including mine, butcher or have an animal butchered to celebrate certain events.   The reason the cow was not on a farm or ranch getting fat is probably due to economics.  It is much cheaper to butcher your own animal then have someone else do it, and keeping it on a ranch or farm costs money.  I’m sure all these factors helped contribute to the cow being in that yard.  It is a rural scene in a major urban city, like much of South Phoenix used to be.  Notably missing from the former rural South Phoenix landscape are the Citrus groves and the Japanese flower garden, now replaced by housing developments with names to remind everyone what used to be.  These are some of the affects the new economic development and the growing influence of Gentrification will have on South Phoenix.

            The factors that help explain a cow grazing in someone’s yard in an urban setting are what make South Phoenix special.  There is a notable Latino influence present in South Phoenix.  This influence can be seen everywhere in South Phoenix from the breathtaking mural art to the strong presence of the Spanish language on billboards, bus signs and so forth.  This rich cultural influence is what makes South Phoenix so unique aside from the rest of Phoenix.  I hope this cultural identity does not get lost in the face of impending Gentrification.

Kurt DeRuyter




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