Arizona is something of a conundrum. It is a young state, and as such it lacks the heritage
or long standing cultural history that other states in the US enjoy. Most of its uniqueness is derived from being part of the sunbelt of the nation and as such it has a reputation as being artificial
. That is true of the larger cities, who take their lead from places like Los Angeles
and Las Vegas
but lack the prestige
of those places. The less developed areas of the state, however, prove to be much more interesting and worthwhile to experience for the casual traveller or the permanent resident alike. Below, I will attempt to explain the contrast between the two.
The land itself is not conducive to the kind of modern living that most expect in a major urban center
. The weather is incessantly hot
and can reach upwards of 120 degrees farenheit during the summers. This is uncharacteristic of a desert in that this temperature does not fall considerably in the city, even at night. The unusual weather is caused by the heat island
formed by the thousands of tons of concrete which has been poured on top of the natural top soil. Normally, the desert floor has very little capacity for absorbing heat and thus after dark it can become quite cold. This is still true in the outlying regions which have not been developed commercial
ly. Inside the cities, however, the concrete
remains hot even after dark and the ambient temperature remains high because of it.
I stated that the undeveloped regions of Arizona maintain their original desert appearance and are extremely representative of what the Southwest
looked like before concentrated urbanization began. This is true, but the pace at which the land is being developed is alarming
. The urban sprawl is pushed further and further into the natural landscape
as the developers purchase cheap land and create massive planned communities
. This sort of rapid expansion is most apparent on the outskirts of Phoenix
, and more specifically Maricopa County
. There has been a great argument over whether the mass development of planned communities should continue, and the conflict has risen to such a level that recently an arsonist
began setting unfinished homes on fire to protest
The ever expanding cityscape
has created an urban sprawl
which interconnect the various population centers. Arizona's major cities have very poor systems of public transportation
for their size. The primary mode of public transit is by bus
, and even those are under used. Light rail
was suggested, but ultimately was discarded as a pipe dream. Thus, intercity travel in Arizona is characterized by long, sun stained days in cars on highways which literally bleed heat on to weary travellers.
Outside the Cities
Outside of the sprawl, Arizona has many quirks and aspects that go unnoticed by most everyone but those who happen to be fortunate enough to work and live outside of Maricopa County or perhaps Tucson
(two of the most populous
areas). There is a part of Scottsdale
, known as Old Scottsdale
which is billed as a historical district
, but it is really just another strip mall
. If one wants to truly experience the history of Arizona, it is necessary to go to the small towns which pepper the desert terrain.
The small towns exist as satellites to the larger cities, and provide the open land necessary for things like cotton farming
and copper mining
, which are two of Arizona's largest industries. Places like Superior
are less than 50 miles outside of Phoenix proper, but they are largely forgotten by the city dwellers. These small towns are extremely vital to Arizona's economy
, however, and should not be overlooked. In addition to the modern mining towns a spattering of ghost towns
and historical recreations exist, but most of these are quite tacky as they slant heavily towards entertaining tourists and away from accurately presenting history.
Another important aspect of Arizona's culture are the Native American
communities which have carved out their own niche in the modern world. The tribes present in modern day Arizona include the Ak-Chin
, the Navajo
, the Havasupai
, the Yavapai
and the Apache
. Many of these tribes have capitalized on their sovereign
status and sometimes central location (such as that of the Gila River Reservation
) by opening casino
s and profitting greatly.
In addition to the pockets of civilization that exist outside of the central cities, Arizona's natural landscape is extremely impressive. Sights like the Apache Trail
and of course the Grand Canyon
are as impressive now as they were a century ago.
"Mining towns losing residents" from the Arizona Republic. http://www.arizonarepublic.com/news/articles/0402censusrural02.html