Grits and Tamales

Life in the Deep South, by Gabriel Aguilera

Monthly Archives: March 2011

3366 Montezuma Rd, Montgomery, Alabama

This property just surfaced on Trulia.com.  I think the Aztec Gods are insisting that I call a real estate agent.

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Unions and the Auto Industry in the Deep South

Unions are not having much luck organizing in the auto industry according to this.  This actually gave me an idea for a paper I will likely not have time to research or write; namely, about how deep antipathy for the Democratic Party and labor provides a competitive advantage in the scramble for foreign direct investment.  This is a highly testable proposition (I’ll say about this more later).  This map provides a nice look at where the auto plants are in the South.

Meet My Congresswoman: Martha Roby, Freshman (R)

From the Montgomery Advertiser.  Too many talking points in this article.  I look forward to explanations of her views at Monty events.  She has a blog where every link goes to her donate page.

Awkward City Seal…

I spotted this off of the river next to the Biscuits baseball park in downtown Monty during my job talk visit last November.   It took me a while to digest that I really was staring at the city’s official seal.  My friend Mark assured me that I was.  I still think “wow” whenever I look at it.

A Separate Nation in 1861

This is a neat discussion of the days leading up to Sumter.

Key quotes:

“I have no hesitation in reporting as unquestionable,’’ he wrote to Lincoln, “that Separate Nationality is a fixed fact — that there is an unanimity of sentiment which is to my mind astonishing — that there is no attachment to the Union — that almost every one of those very men who in 1832 . . . were in fact ready to draw the sword in civil war for the Nation, are now as ready to take arms if necessary for the Southern Confederacy.’’  Lest the president harbor any illusions, Hurlbut was firm. “There is positively nothing to appeal to,’’ he said. “The Sentiment of National Patriotism, always feeble in Carolina, has been Extinguished . . . . Merchants and businessmen act upon the belief that great growth of trade and expansion of material prosperity will follow the Establishment of a Southern Republic. They expect a golden era, when Charleston shall be a great commercial emporium, and control the South as New York does the North.’’

Hurlbut said that he managed to find one staunch unionist still in Charleston, Mr. James Petigru, the 71-year-old former South Carolina attorney general who opposed John Calhoun and the nullificationists in the 1830s…and who stands by the Stars and Stripes even now. The secessionists tolerate him, partially out of respect for his intelligence and integrity and age, and partially in appreciation of his stinging wit. After all, it was Petigru who, after South Carolina voted to secede last December, famously quipped, “South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.” Alas, this time Petigru offered no bon mots, just the sad news that he is the last union man in Charleston.

Virginians share fragile relics for Civil War’s 150th anniversary

This LA Times article is on the preservation of Civil War relics, including diaries, letters, etc.

Money quotes:

  • “Archivists are visiting 129 cities and towns across Virginia to digitally scan long-hidden journals, letters, maps and other Civil War records into an online database before they disappear forever.”
  • “This is the minutiae of history.”
  • “This is a lock of Jeb Stuart’s hair,” she said solemnly, and others in the room suddenly fell silent. “He gave it to my great-great-grandmother.”
  • “I had an aunt, lived to be 100, who said she was a grown woman before she knew damn Yankee was two words,” she said with a laugh.”

U.S. Blacks Moving (back) to South, Reversing Trend

African Americans are returning to the SouthNaunihal pointed out that Latinos are up 200% in Montgomery “Monty” Alabama.  They now total 4% of the population.

Koreans in Montgomery

On the growth of the automobile industry in Montgomery.   One effect is that Koreans are moving to Monty!  Korean grub must be OK.

When Cotton Was King

An argument for why slavery was not going to die can be found here.

First Thoughts

When I arrive in the Deep South in June I will do so with some familiarity.  What I know about the South I have learned through literature, history, and political economy.  I read and loved Richard Wright when I was in high school.  Reading stories about the Jim Crow South made me believe that life in Boyle Heights – a tough Los Angeles inner city community – was not so bad after all.  “Uncle Tom’s Children,” his collection of short stories, convinced me that I had it pretty good and that I actually enjoyed a surfeit of opportunities even in the inner city.  Wright was the first author that sent me to the library to search for his other books.

I have observed, as many others have, that the Deep South resembles Latin America in many respects.  As a student of political economy and Latin American Studies, I have thought a lot about export commodities (staples) and their effects on society and politics during the 19th century.  The region’s economic engines, namely cotton but also other plantation staples, had a little something to do with this.  I have also been learning about the Civil War.  Shelby Foote’s magnum opus, “The Civil War: A Narrative,” has been instructive.  By the middle of the 19th century, the South was a separate nation; it had developed its own way of life and its own vision of republicanism based on states’ rights and slavery.  It took a Northern invasion to keep it within the American republic.

Overall, I have difficulty grasping the cultural consequences of a plantation economy, Civil War, and Jim Crow.  Today, moreover, important structural transformations are underway: industrialization, a growing Latino population, the return of African-Americans, and political polarization.  I look forward to reflecting on all of these themes from the perspective of my day to day life in Montgomery, Alabama.

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