August 29, 2007 Bonus Blog
One of the things I realized while staying in Antigua, Guatemala is that I love towns that have ducked progress. Whether by economic disaster or natural disaster, towns that have been "cocooned" make me so very happy. This would be towns like Lincoln, New Mexico, or, Guthrie, Oklahoma, or, Bisbee, Arizona and Jerome. These towns all had success pass them by. They missed high rise glass office buildings and urban renewal and most of the trendy phases of development that have plasticized and homogonized almost every community in North America.
In the case of Antigua, the ancient town suffered so many earthquakes, volcanic eruptions (the town sits between three and one is active!) and mudslides, that one of the governors finally had enough and said they were moving the capital 45 miles east and that everyone had to leave the town. This was in, I believe 1733, or so. Of course, as people are prone to do, some didn't want to leave, and although the officials came and stripped all of the many churches and government buildings of paintings and ornate stuff, they left the buildings. So, today, there it sits, like a time capsule from the prime of Spanish Colonial rule. There's more: in the case of Antigua, it was basically revived by an American woman named Elizabeth Bell (no relation) who moved to Antigua when her father, a promotions man for Sunset magazine, found the town in the late 1960s and moved his family and his young daughter, Elizabeth, to the cocooned town. Her story tomorrow.
Meanwhile, like many Western bergs, my hometown suffers from the opposite problem. What hasn't been gutted has been abandoned. Here is a photo of downtown Kingman in the 1930s or 40s. We're looking east on Front Street, later Andy Devine. At left, is Desert Drugs, where I bought all my issues of True West magazine. The building was torn down several years ago and is a vacant lot. Think of the comparison: one town has buildings dating back to the 1600s and even the ruins are still standing, and the other town can't even save buildings from the 1930s. I often joke that in Arizona if you see a building that's from 1951, people go Ga-Ga: "That's incredible! How did we miss that one!?"
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