Marking territory -Part 1

Authentic travel includes getting to know the people living in your destination. Talking to locals is a start. But with only a few days or weeks in a place, building understanding can be a challenge. That said, other telling details that can help. Among the most fascinating: how people mark out (in an attempt to claim or conquer) their territory.

What territory says

Architectural details, public art, fencing, murals, landscaping details, signs, hedgerows separating out farmers’ fields – these items say many things.  They speak of what people value; what they fear; their sense of humour and/ or curiosity.  Marked territory can tell you about how locals lead their lives, and who benefits (or fails to benefit) from flows of power.  The photos below are all examples of local territory marking.  They speak to me of who (at least some of) the locals are and how they relate to each other.

Examples

Bank of Hawaii building, Honolulu.  Author photo, February 2016

The above photo shows how a bank operating in a multi-cultural city like Honolulu celebrates the locals who descended from Chinese settlers roughly a century ago. In my  part of the world, which has attracted more contemporary Chinese migration, the  features shown above tend to speak less about current migrants and what appeals to them.

I love how, in the photos below, the business operator is surreptitiously and temporarily claiming territory, without making the same type of investment as someone in a conventional store.  Perhaps rents are far too prohibitive- or maybe the owner just prefers this transient approach.  You see her/him trying to legitimize the mobile business as it takes up a parking space for just hours at a time. Judging from the quality of the sign, it seems to have been working.

Silver Lake neighbourhood of Los Angeles. Author photos, February 2016

Claiming space doesn’t just happen with businesses.  Parking is a big focus of space-claiming.  While on-street parking is typically public, North American city dwellers often view the space in front of their homes as their personal (private) property- particularly when parking becomes a more scarce resource.  Unknown cars parked in those locations may be told about their transgressions through windshield notes- or even more aggressive acts.  But driveways are less clear, and are sometimes used or blocked by others, resulting in conflict and a need for the homeowner to mark that territory as his or her own.  The example below is also from Los Angeles:

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Silver Lake neighbourhood of Los Angeles.  Author photo, February 2016

And, of course walls and gates are obvious territory markers. They can be beautiful or whimsical. Sometimes the beauty is offered as an apology for space claiming. It may also be an indicator of some shared neighbourhood territoriality- a contribution to the larger public realm even as the individual space is claimed.

Some of my own neighbours in Vic West achieve this by offering of floral bursts beside or through their fences:

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Victoria, British Columbia.  Author photo, June 2016
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Victoria, British Columbia.  Author photo, March 2017

And here are some other examples of fence appeal, one by a business, and another by an art gallery/ centre:

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Houston, Texas.  Author photo, November 2015
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Mendocino, California.  Author photo, June 2016

So here is my challenge to you: on your next trip, try to find and photograph as many interesting or appealing territory markers as you can. I guarantee that it will get you thinking about your destination, and the relationships between inhabitants, in new ways. Territory markers are a rich topic for exploring further. Watch for another posting on this topic, and please suggest your own in the comments section of this blog.

 Conquer

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A morning walk, Mexico

At the risk of seeming lazy, I must share another blogger’s wonderful post of various Mexico City vistas- mostly murals and wall art. Sharing because others should see these lovely photos. Enjoy!

Equinoxio

IMG_4190Being a bit short of time today, I just put together a few shots from my morning walks in Tlalpan, the new neighbourhood we live in Mexico city. Good news: Spring IS here. It will reach you soon. February-March mark the blooming of Jacarandas. Some years the city turns all mauve. I thought this year would not be a good one, jacaranda-wise, because of the cold (relatively) January-February we just had. But I was wrong. Jacarandas are superb. 🙂

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First time I saw jacarandas was in Kenya, a long time ago. I don’t quite remember the season. The tree seems to originate from tropical central and south America. Though it has now been planted in Asia (Nepal) and Africa, East and South. A question to my South African friends: are your jacarandas blooming now?

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“Here lies an open heart”. Or broken? Is that a lemon tree growing…

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Indigenous cultures and museums

As someone of Celtic, German and French ancestry, I am not truly in touch with my own Indigenous roots.  Visiting Mexico City’s Anthropological Museum, I was struck by the richness and diversity of the Indigenous cultures there that pre-dated the Spanish.  It was  also wonderful to see many Mexican people (perhaps also tourists from other regions) spending time and engaging with their heritage. 

In our forthcoming book, my co-editor and I have done our best to invite other contributors who are able to bring in some Indigenous perspectives on planning for authentic communities.  Without this knowledge personally, I hesitate to say more at this point in my blog.  But it is an important perspective.  Instead, I offer a few photos that illustrate the beauty and importance of Indigenous Mexican heritage.  All come from the Museo Antropologico in Mexico City.

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Author photo, January 31, 2017
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Author photo, January 31, 2017
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Author photo, January 31, 2017
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Author photo, January 31, 2017
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Author photo, January 31, 2017
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Author photo, January 31, 2017
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Author photo, January 31, 2017
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Author photo, January 31, 2017
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Author photo, January 31, 2017