“The borderlands are beautiful.” That’s how Petey Mesquitey always ends his weekly show Growing Native on the Tucson community radio station KXCI. And that was my first question to Petey in this interview: Why are the borderlands beautiful?
What follows is the legendary storyteller’s observations from more than 30 years of living in the rural borderlands, what it’s like to walk every morning through diverse biomes, what it’s like to see a bear, a coatimundi, or a box turtle; what it’s like to experience a forest of saguaros or a forest of oak trees.
In other words, a description of the borderlands that is much different from what we usually get, with sparse adjectives like dusty and desolate. Petey is an expert storyteller who lets the words tumble out of his mouth in all directions—a chaotic, coherent, sweet, and joyful poetry—and this interview is no different.
It was a joy, as it has been for decades, to hear his descriptions and see with fresh eyes what a unique and beautiful place the borderlands is.
He also talks about all the changes that he’s seen in his time here. “When I moved here,” he says,
“I had a friend who had a ranch on the other side of the San Bernardino in Mexico. We just jumped back and forth through the barbed-wire fence—to go in and out, in and out—to look at plants. Wait, there’s a plant on the other side of the border, but it’s in Mexico. It would just crack you up. It’s so sweet. I’m in Mexico. I’m going back and forth. And, you know, there’s always the history—of course, workers came through. People expected them to come through. I don’t know how it all went to hell. And became such dreadful, angry, hateful thing.”
On a side note, I am moving (within Tucson) and somehow lost my recorder. I apologize if the sound is off at all. I think it still sounds pretty good, especially because of the magic of our audio editor.
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