North Carolina State University
Copyright © 2000 by Deborah Wyrick, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. Copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the editors are notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.
- Something has changed along I-95. The major north-south artery on the U.S. East coast, I-95 boasts an especially dreary stretch between Savannah, Georgia, and Fayetteville, North Carolina -- in other words, the entire state of South Carolina. The only thing to look at, apart from monotonous vistas of scrub pine flats, are billboards advertising South of the Border, a 'Mexican Theme World' outside Dillon, S.C., just below the North Carolina state line. Occurring at one-mile intervals, these billboards announce the distance to South of the Border (hereinafter abbreviated SOB) and promote the various attractions (motels, gift shops, food, fireworks, miniature golf) awaiting the weary traveler. The previous time I drove through South Carolina, the billboards featured an offensive cartoon Mexican named Pedro -- a dumpy, dark-skinned, rather frightened looking peasant who shilled for SOB in fractured, punning 'Mexican-speak' (e.g., "You never SAUSAGE a place; it's a real WIENER," 'sez' Pedro). But, according to my I-95 jaunt last weekend, Pedro has disappeared. In his place is a lanky, unnamed cartoon guitar player who never sez anything. He functions only as slacker-Mariachi decoration, and the billboards he ornaments have eschewed 'colorful' language for straightforward listings of mileage and SOB enticements.
- Evidently, Pedro has been disappearing for the past few years. As early as 1993, the Mexican government lodged a formal protest against SOB's advertising, and by the late 1990s, the theme world's billboard renovation project was a done deal -- spurred no doubt by changing public sensibilities about ethnic jokes. In the ringing words of octogenarian SOB owner Alan Schafer, "We have to communicate with the present generation -- these baby boomers do not have a sense of humor." Being a member of that target audience, I turned off at SOB to see if the clean-up campaign had spread from the highway to the theme world precincts (official excuse: the gas tank was empty).
- Nope. The Sombrero Tower and the Sombrero-shaped restaurant are still there, as is a large plaster statue of the original (albeit lightened, and smiling) Pedro. As are plaster statues of gorillas and giraffes: SOB apparently subscribes to a certain pan-exoticism, with 'Mexico' covering every region of the world beyond North and South Carolina. While I pumped overpriced gas into my car, it occurred to me that SOB's totalizing material culture may be more than an oversized remnant of the cheerfully tacky Eisenhower era, the era that brought us neon arches and DeSoto tail fins and chrome-and-formica tables and poodle skirts and the Interstate Highway System. It may also be a symptom of a continuing xenophobia in this part of the United States, a xenophobia that assumed a more serious form a couple of weeks ago.
- On Saturday, February 19, 2000, an "Anti-Immigration Rally" took place in Siler City, North Carolina, a small town about thirty miles west of the capital city of Raleigh. Its organizer Richard Vanderford, an auto-shop owner whose pickup truck sports an "ARYAN" license plate, has been outraged at the influx of Hispanic immigrants drawn to the area by job opportunities in poultry processing, agriculture, construction, and light industry. The number of Hispanic residents in Chatham County, where Siler City is located, has increased five-fold during the 1990s. In the language of Vanderford's rally permit application, these "unassimilable non-American workers" are creating "an unburdenable [sic] strain on the indigenous residents here, our traditions, our institutions and our infrastructure." He and his supporters have rechristened Siler City "Little Mexico"; the fact that the newcomers hail from Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador as well as from Mexico apparently has little bearing on demographic understanding. To publicize opposition to what they call "the Mexican invasion," Vanderford's group invited David Duke -- former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and peripatetic politician from Louisiana -- to participate in the rally. Duke, who now styles himself a "civil rights worker" and heads the "National Organization for European American Rights (NOFEAR)," accepted the invitation.
- The night before the rally, St. Julia's Roman Catholic Church in Siler City held a Prayer and Peace Vigil, which was attended by Hispanic, Black, and White area residents and which has been credited for calming the tensions the rally tried to intensify. The rally itself passed without incident, anti-rally protestors significantly outnumbering the approximately 100 rally participants. Although the Vanderford/Duke event ended less with a bang than a whimper, it does exemplify the anti-immigration sentiment that has produced English-only legislation and draconian Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) measures in other parts of the country. These efforts are fueled by the totalizing, stereotyping mindset that takes silly material form at SOB. According to this mindset, all Hispanic immigrants are "Mexican," all immigrants are "illegal," and all immigrants threaten 'genuine Americans' economically and culturally (unless, of course, the 'Mexicans' are tourist trap mascots, or the illegal immigrants are Castro-fleeing, floating five-year-olds). As Duke proclaimed, "Mexicans come with a huge price tag in areas such as social welfare, medical services, education and criminal justice. These people have illegally crossed our border and are destroying our quality of life. They should be sent home, not catered to." In North Carolina, such logic is reinforced, à la SOB, by billboards blaming immigrants directly for a host of domestic woes including traffic jams and urban sprawl.
- Perhaps so they can keep watch over the INS offices in Charlotte and Winston-Salem, these hate-mongering billboards blight the western half of North Carolina. They are not to be found on the North and South Carolina stretches of I-95, however. Interstate travelers must be contented/bored/irritated/angered by the SOB signs and the palimpsest of Pedro that haunts them.
- By the way, I was driving along I-95 to participate in the 9th annual British Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies Conference, hosted by Georgia Southern University and held this year in the former slave port of Savannah, Georgia. It was a good conference, attended mostly by academics from the U.S. East Coast, but also by scholars from the U.K., Europe, and Canada. The preponderance of papers explicated individual texts; there were three panels devoted to single authors -- Chinua Achebe, Derek Walcott, and Arundhati Roy -- who seem to represent the poles of postcolonial canonization. Another group of papers addressed broader topics, such as pedagogy, the effects of institutionalization, and national narratives. My paper was one of these, in a sense; it concerned satire (specifically, Caribbean prose satire) and satire's relative neglect within postcolonial studies. I ended it by referring to Cynthia James's "Poster Poem," appearing in this issue of Jouvert. James's work is the first clearly satiric submission (creative, scholarly, or both) we have received. It may auger a certain coming-of-age in postcolonial studies: that we are established enough to laugh at ourselves occasionally, that we have enough 'history' to satirize, and that we are secure enough to profit from the provocative critique that satire can offer.
- James's other poems in this issue present differing views of Caribbean life and writing. Caribbean discourse is also the subject of Angelia Poon's article on Edwidge Danticat and Jamaica Kincaid; she examines how postcolonial women authors disrupt and rewrite male texts, particularly as they pertain to concepts of nation and cultural spaces. Similar theoretical interests underlie Rahul Krishna Gairola's discussion of Tsitsi Dangarembga and Meena Alexander's fiction. Within the context of Third World women's experiences and writing practices, Gairola focuses on the pressures of education and English language acquisition. Stephen Pritchard's article brings an alternative perspective to questions of women, identity, and nation: he traces the legal and cultural ramifications of the 'Hindmarsh Island Bridge Affair,' in which Aboriginal women's sacred secrets were put in opposition to Australian national 'progress.'
- Concepts of nation also inform Harveen Sachdeva Mann's article. Specifically, she looks at resistances to dominant Hindu nationalism by the political, religious, and cultural ethno-nationalism of late twentieth-century Punjab. She emphasizes the role of gender within this movement by analyzing texts by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwhale, V. S. Naipaul, Partap Sharma, Salman Rushdie, Mridula Garg, and Ajeet Cour. Rushdie is the subject of Timothy Weiss's article; Weiss explores The Moor's Last Sigh in terms of its multi-geographied orientalism, its mythmaking, and the particulars of its narrative technique. Narrative techniques that involve apocalyptic and millennarian writing are Abioseh Michael Porter's concern. His study of four contemporary West African novels -- Chinua Achebe's Anthills of the Savannah, Syl Cheney-Coker's The Last Harmattan of Alusine Dunbar, Ahmadou Kourouma's Monnè, outrages et défis, and T. O. Echewa's I Saw the Sky Catch Fire -- posits a 'new millennial' consciousness permeating the form of the historical novel.
- This issue includes four book reviews: Piers M. Smith on Nicholas B. Dirks, ed., In Near Ruins: Cultural Theory at the End of the Century; ross glover on Jacques Derrida's Monolingualism of the Other: Or, The Prosthesis of Origin; Kathleen Frederickson on Marie Vautier's New World Myth: Postmodernism and Postcolonialism in Canadian Fiction; and Neal McLeod, on May Joseph's Nomadic Identities: The Performance of Citizenship.
- Chris Perrius has 'retired' as Jouvert's Reviews Editor. I'd like to thank him for the fine job he's done in this capacity; his professionalism and his supportive friendship have been invaluable to me and to the journal. Andrea Mensch, our new Associate Editor, will take over Chris's responsibilities; I am most grateful for her help. Andrea, who teaches film at NCSU, grew up in South Africa. Educated there, in Europe, and in the US, she brings a lived 'specular border intellectual' perspective to the editorial staff as well as a particular enthusiasm for postcolonial cinema and music. She and I would like Jouvert's reviews to include assessments of relevant movies, exhibits, concerts . . . please write her with your ideas along these lines. Finally, I'd like to thank my department -- and, as always, our readers, contributors, and editorial board members -- for continuing support of the journal.
- Chase, Randall. "Anti-Immigration Rally Shows Tension Underlying Hispanic Immigration." Associated Press, Feb. 24, 2000. Feb. 28, 2000. http://www.wral-tv.com/news/state...C-CarolinaImmigrati_=TOPAP.html
- Duke, David. "David Duke Says Siler City Officials Favor Illegal Aliens over American Citizens." David Duke Online, Feb. 18, 2000. Feb 28, 2000. http://www.duke.org/events/press_release_02-18-00.html
- Hawco, Stephanie. "Nearly 300 Opponents, Supporters Show Up at Immigration Protest." WRAL Online, Feb. 20, 2000. Feb. 28, 2000. http://www.wral-tv.com/news/wral/2000/0219-anti-hispanic-protest/
- "Keep Yelling Kids! They'll Stop!" Road Trip America. Feb. 28, 2000. http://roadtripamerica.com/places/southof.htm
- Smith, Ken. "Siler City Residents Pray for Peace in Anti-Immigration Rally." WRAL Online, Feb. 20, 2000. Feb. 28, 2000.
- "South of the Border." Roadside America. Feb. 28, 2000. http://roadsideamerica.com/attract/SCDILsob2.html
- "South of the Border Billboards." Roadside America. Feb. 28, 2000. http://www.roadsideamerica.com/news/971026SCDIL.html