When most of us head to Arizona, we either hit the Scottsdale/Phoenix area, often called the “Valley of the Sun”, or the Tucson area, further south and near the Mexican border. But what do any of us really know about Arizona, except that it has cactus, Spring Training, Barry Goldwater, and lots of hot sunny weather most of the year?
Who actually discovered Arizona? It was not Magellan, or Ponce deLeon. It was an obscure Spanish Franciscan friar by the name of Marcos de Niza in 1539. Contrary to popular belief, he did not bring plastic surgery to the Scottsdale area. He was soon followed by the more famous gold seeker, Francisco Coronado.
Arizona has a rich legend with Native Americans, serving as the home of the famous Geronimo, and Cochise, who led their tribesmen against the frontiersmen. And Tombstone was the site of the world’s most famous shootout, the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Even today, the state has one of the largest Native American populations, with more than 14 tribes on 20 reservations.
As kids, we often yelled “Geronimo” when we cannonballed into the swimming pool. He was active in many wars with the settlers and regional authorities, leading them into battle, and captured many times. Sadly, he was finally deported to Florida, without his family. After some prison time in Alabama, he finally settled down in Oklahoma, adopted Christianity, and became a prosperous farmer. His celebrity peaked when he appeared at the World’s Fair in St. Louis and in President Theodore Roosevelt’s inauguration.
So, besides plastic surgery, what are some other money making industries in this state? Their principal products now are electrical, aeronautic, and communications industries, as well as the largest (over half) copper producer in the U.S. Agriculture remains a key part of the economy, with cattle, dairy and cotton.
On the tourist side of things, the Grand Canyon is perhaps our country’s greatest spectacle. My personal favorites are the slot canyons, and in particular, Antelope Slot Canyon near Page in northern Arizona. And Saguaro National Park just outside of Tucson is one of our most unique National Parks. In fact, the flower of the saguaro cactus is the state flower.
I would like to explore (if I had any idea) how Arizona came to be such a “conservative” place, with a controversial and strange immigration philosophy. Perhaps it is their proximity to the Mexican border? Also, it is illegal to shoot a camel in this state. You could get 25 years in prison for cutting down a saguaro cactus. It is unlawful to refuse a person a glass of water. And the craziest, you may not have more than two dildos in the house. What if you are dating triplets? No more than six girls may live in a house. You must be at least 18 years of age to buy spray paint.
Arizona, along with Hawaii, does not observe Daylight Saving Time. Petrified wood is the official state fossil. The amount of copper on the roof of the state capital building is equivalent to 4.8 million pennies. The Arizona tree frog is the state amphibian. Blue and gold are the state’s official colors. The age of a saguaro cactus is determined by its height. Arizona became the 48th (last of the contiguous) state of Valentine’s Day, 1912.
Air conditioning and tourism led to the state’s population growth. You get the idea. This is not your normal state. They want guns in schools here! It is just a little different, and also loads of fun. I guarantee you will never get bored here, unless it is a hot summer day, and the pool is closed!
Stay tuned for some of my year end summaries on dining, traveling, and music.