Saturday, April 8, 2017

Mestizaje: Issues of Race in Ajo

     Ajo is a unique place. Not only is the town going through a massive renewal despite enormous setbacks, but it is also a place where Hispanics, O'Odham, and Anglos have been able to live together. The composition of Ajo according to a worker from the International Sonoran Desert Alliance is almost evenly split between the three groups. At one time the town was forcibly segregated between all three each having their own neighborhood and services. It is important to note that the Anglo town was of the highest quality followed by the Hispanic area, and lastly by the O'Odham zone. The segregation did not mean that all three groups kept to themselves though. In fact, according to locals, some of the Hispanics and the Indians intermarried and interacted with each other regularly. This is not an uncommon phenomenon as it was seen again and again throughout Latin America. What is remarkable about the town is that, after the town was forcibly integrated during the closing of the mine, the town did not go through the same sort of vitriolic conflict that has accompanied integration across the United States. While some may chock the lack of reaction to the town's small size and the massive emigration that accompanied the closing of the mine, I believe that it is something else. I firmly believe that the reason why Ajo had an easier time with integration is because the school was, to a limited degree, integrated.
    Even in its prime Ajo was not a town in which multiple schools could be reasonably supported at all levels. The designers of the town realized this and constructed one school in the center of town to serve the entire community instead of providing three separate schools as had been done for other services. Within the school, classrooms could be separated, but the school itself was integrated. Students of every background would have rubbed elbows in the hall and some might have even developed friendships, but perhaps most importantly when integration came to the school it was easy. There was no need to ask for more funding for a specific school because everyone went to the same one. There was no confrontation at a school board meeting over books because all the books belonged to the same group. This means all the children were easily given the same education when educational education came with the civil rights act. And because of this, the transition from educational to broader integration was easy. There was no gap in access to education, there was no kid who grew up not knowing a person of a different race. Similar educational integrations have had similar effects but with the challenges of bussing and managing separate schools, but in Ajo integrating education was easy which is why I believe integrating Ajo was easy.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting theory. It certainly sounds plausible. Is there a way to test?