I’m looking at the June 28th cover of THE WEEK. It’s a photo of the Grand Canal in Venice. Gondolas, overloaded with tourists, ride low… water up the gunnels and gondoliers look askance as they in line up to wait their turn passing beneath the Rialto Bridge which is three -deep with gawking spectators leaning over the abutment above.
The photo previews the article “Far too popular: Why summer destinations are against ‘overtourism.'” Quoting Kara Fox in CNN.com, “From April to October, some 32,000 cruise ship passengers disembark [in Venice] daily, joining 465,000 day-trippers.”
If you have been to Venice during the off-season and before the tourist glut, you can only cry. The city is not the same.
Such was my recent trip to Santa Fe which I had not visited in maybe 45 years. My memory of Santa Fe was that it was larger than Taos. Ha! Today, Santa Fe is a densely crowded small city.
Santa Fe is not Los Angeles, but it is so much busier than I remember. My nostalgia for Old Santa Fe is packed in the same box with my memories of playing hopscotch, ice skating on farm ponds, and roller skating with the key around my neck. And given that it is summer… I remember making daisy chains. “He loves me; he loves me not.”
I wonder if I ever cheated? Did I count the petals (and perhaps remove one) to assure myself that the very last petal would forecast love?
The density of Santa Fe came as a shock, but prior to my visit, I’d been reading Forrest Carter’s book, WATCH FOR ME ON THE MOUNTAIN – a story based on the Apache’s defense of their homeland under the leadership of Geronimo.
The preface includes an excerpt from Longfellow’s 1845 poem, “The Arsenal at Springfield.” Were half the power, that fills the world with terror, / Were half the wealth, bestowed on camps and courts, / Given to redeem the human mind from error, / There were no need of arsenals or forts:
How true! I find it sad that so much time has passed and we ‘higher life forms’ have made so little progress. Man’s baser instincts still call for conflict. We have learned nothing. Some hope that we can show the Chinese and Russians a thing or two and rocket to Mars. Why go so far when we have so many unsolved issues here on planet Earth?
Some of the quotes in WATCH FOR ME are chilling. Chief Josecito of the Mescalero Apaches tried to keep peace with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but he and his people were driven from the self-sustaining White Mountains onto an arid reservation at Bosque Redondo where they were dependent on and starving from insufficient government rations.
When Josecito protested, he was murdered. Quoting Washington’s Indian Bureau agent, E. A. Graves: “This race are destined to a speedy and final extinction, seems to admit of no doubt… all that can be expected from an enlightened and Christian government, such as ours, is to graduate and smooth the passway of their final exit from the state of human existence.”
Having taught on the Navajo reservation and the White River Apache Reservation (both in Arizona), I really enjoyed reading WATCH FOR ME.
a good friend mentioned that Forrest Carter was a known racist and had lied about his Native American (Cherokee) heritage. His first highly acclaimed book, THE EDUCATION OF LITTLE TREE, was not a memoir as he promoted, but fiction.
I must say that after appreciating Carter’s writing skills, I was shocked. A little research led me to learning that Asa Carter was a Ku Klux Klan leader in the 50s and a speech writer for George Wallace who was Alabama’s governor 63-67. Wallace was also a candidate for president in ’64, ’68, and ’76. As a speech writer, Carter’s oft quoted refrain was “Segregation now; segregation tomorrow; segregation forever.”
How, I wondered, could I reconcile my appreciation of Carter’s writing style with the man himself? Who was Asa (Forrest) Carter? I don’t have the answer to that question. Critics who know his work better than I, are as confused as I am.
Seeing the Native American women on the Plaza…on their knees selling jewelry displayed on handwoven textiles was also troubling. How many tourists know our misguided, brutal Native American history?
Yes, the women are making a living – selling their handcrafts, but the women are also a commercialized brand. As a group or tribe, they are marketing their culture, but as individuals, they are so much more. I found myself wanting to scream, “Get up off your knees!”