Between a church and three towers

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From Chihuahua to Barcelona

Chihuahua is located in the northern hemisphere of Mexico; it is the largest state in the country, bearing the Mexican revolution in which its hero, Pancho Villa ( José Doroteo Arango Arámbula) roamed, bannered, conspired, won battles and lost others, including his life, just like Mexico’s father of Independence, Miguel Hidalgo. At a certain point in time, Chihuahua also served as a capital by order of its first President of indigenous descent, Benito Juarez, yet only for a brief time. Today it is a state, like any other in the world, under development with political and historical problems, more specifically narcotics. Due to the difficulty of surviving in the city of Chihuahua, – one of the top ten dangerous cities in the world up until two thousand and twelve – this article studies and compares Chihuahua with Barcelona and Figueras, Spain, cities successful economically, politically, in part, through its architecture.

As a result of recent studies I’ve made on semiotics, culture, film and stories my mind draws up a question while gliding over this vast city, Chihuahua: How does the rough architecture of this city affect the behavior of the people that live within it? If you observe the streets of Barcelona or Figueras there’s a feeling that even though everyone is completely different, we can all get along with the simple intervention of aesthetically pleasing pieces of art. And whether it is your first visit or you live there, one seems to enjoy finding artistic elements that speak volumes of the past and future desires of its people, like finding The Basilica de la Sagrada Familia of Gaudi, the sculptures of Miro, buildings by Josep Puig i Cadafalch, including Botero cats in Barcelona while walking through El Raval or while strolling around the city of Figueras, which has elements of Dali on its sidewalks, and not to mention the huge museum that decorates such city. This doesn’t mean that other aspects of these two European cities aren’t poignant rather that everything could be and is as equally important; the way they structure the buildings, and what they put within the city seems to be of much importance to its inhabitants. It is a peculiar way of thinking but a very effective one.

Therefore, to organize and contemplate what we will build or see within a city is perhaps something that Catalonians have become masters at. Thus, the city works for everyone by day or night. This is something that could be applied to cities under development like Chihuahua. Though if to what we build we questioned ahead of time and determine the benefits in short or long term, perhaps not only for one, rather for relatives, friends, and co-workers benefits, there could be greater advantage for an entire city, including its nation.

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In addition, to base a city on beliefs like the one Gaudi had, in which he believed that everything had to have a purpose, a benefit and could be enjoyed by everyone, or that art placed on the streets could serve to entice you to become better observers, henceforth, better citizens, the results could be staggeringly wonderful and beneficial. These are ideas, beliefs and desires we all generally share for our lives but if added personal likes and dislikes to the city, some that change with the rotation of government, than the city could turn chaotic rather than welcoming. For that reason, cities like Chihuahua need to create a phrase which we can praise be it any political party – i.e. PAN (National Action Party), PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) or PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) - ten years from now or tomorrow, in order to not lose momentum of growth.

This relates to Humphrey’s analysis which explains that “when reaching a certain level of complexity, elements within such complexity arises to increase such knowledge” therefore, at some point, this can and should entail social realization (310). On the other hand, the city of Chihuahua shows little success at banking its knowledge, as if each time it has changed its government it has strayed its own golden rules. Perhaps we are waiting for that something or someone who will push us ahead. Nonetheless, as Ohler (2008) once mentioned, the possibility of growing seems more plausible now that humanity counts with easy access to information on the internet; constant sharing of information; hence stories that permit us to learn from others errors and capacities (Haven 1-10). However, it is as if we are unaware that this technology exists, as if we believe there is something grater and invisible in this city of Chihuahua that will one day allow us to grow. And that is what we must truly analyze; if by a struck of luck or faith, opportunities may come.

What could be considered a struck of luck, is Chihuahua’s geography. Let us stop briefly then on its location. Chihuahua, neighbor to Texas, U.S.A, is composed by one third of desert, causing the extremely hot semi-arid climate, which makes it difficult to enjoy during its long periods of sun or cold weather. Nevertheless, when thinking about other desert cities, e.g. Tucson or Scottsdale, Arizona, this is not a sufficient reason for the lack of architectural advancement. Thence, we are still left with the following question: To what should we attribute the block in the urban landscape of this city? The problem, therefore, may rely upon the way politicians and perhaps Chihuahua’s societies as a whole organize our goals.

By applying a goal, one that is sustainable beyond money, for money comes and goes; we apply long life to the project, consequently more dividends (Haven 29-43). On the contrary, if a short term goal takes long, that doesn’t imply it’s a long term goal or commitment. Consider it this way; we are obliged by order or life, whether we like it or not, to think in short and long term conditions, which we are constantly making even though the mind sometimes may not notice. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we sat a while conspiring to control our goals and commitments? Thereupon, Politicians need to re-think their political goals as long term, plausible, almost eternal, commitments to themselves and their family, which will eventually benefit their society. It is as simple as Dr. de Waal once said, “Humanity can only survive through cooperation and mutual assistance” (2002). On that account, if we think short term and personal benefits, then we are merely an incomprehensible layered mosaic; a concept that resembles the architectural conditions of Chihuahua at the moment.

Here in Chihuahua, there are bridges that fall; “parks” that have no trees yet serve to gather people in political meetings. People hurray away from the streets for there are no real places to enjoy; no security. But, if politicians thought on long term benefits, they would persist on using experts to build the bridges and the buildings that adorn and serve the city. They would also persist on using the best materials so constructions halfway done or finished wouldn’t fall. Politicians, as a result, have de-civilized the structure of this society including its architectural structure; meaning, a poorly planned landscape of a city encourages crime.

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With Zimbardo’s social psychological experiment, in which if members of a society see a physically torn city, delinquency propagates, we have learned that if politicians do not invest in the recovery of its architecture, the city is turned into chaos (1969). Nevertheless, for some politicians of estranged cities, like Chihuahua, including other cities in the world in which delinquency is or has been a problem, it is difficult to remember that once serving the city, they too remain under the same sky, therefore the covenant is not conditioning the inhabitants of such places with what is left after saving up for political campaigns or personal desires, rather that the money we entrust on to them is rightly invested on to the city, a city which in turn can and should function optimally; paving way to what Joseph Campbell once said: “In medieval towns the church is taller than the rest of the city, in seventeenth century it is the political tower that is taller and in modern society it is the offices and dwellings that are taller” (1998). However, Chihuahua seems to be stuck between a church and three towers, leaving the spectator earning for more.

More, thus, was precisely what People like Gaudi and Dali thought of. They dedicated their time on their true passion, sharing it with their cities. One may say they even gave up their lives in order to make buildings and art aesthetically pleasing, as far as eternity can exist in the mind of mankind. Despite their personal goals, these artists were not reliant upon the money they would obtain. Therefore, the after math of their creations, beliefs and goals are still standing, helping build a great city, furthermore; a better nation regardless of the passing of time.

So too, then, do cities like Chihuahua deserve and need politicians, architects, artists, that have goals beyond the economic wealth their creations will gather. But, most importantly, we need to unite in a philosophy; in a common ideal that will allow all of us to grow physically, spiritually, architecturally, artistically and economically contempt as a city; a philosophy that can only be envisioned by the powers of relentless creativity spurring on in allegorical waves of stability.

Isis Kiwen

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