As a graduate student I wrote my dissertation on the meanings within the symbolic landscape. Since very few are clamoring to read my 500 page dissertation, this is a sampling that shows one of my major points: changes in the symbolic landscapes are indicators that there are shifts in how individuals and communities are interpreting their identity and understanding their history. Here are 3 examples for Mexico and one controversial one from the Penn State campus.
Example #1: The “Indios Verdes“
In March 2010 edition of the Journal of Geography, I wrote an article entitled, Mexico City’s Indios Verdes: Exploring Cultural Patterns Using Public Memorials. In this article I used statues in Mexico City to show how public space plays a critical role in the historical narratives of a nation that are used to form cultural identity. The patterns and processes of cultural change are tangible in instance, making it a useful teaching example. The map below shows some of the places (with embedded pictures) that are mentioned in my Indios Verdes article.
KML DOWNLOAD for best viewing of this interactive Map in Google Earth.
Example #2: The Zapatista’s reinterpret history and space
This YouTube video I created also shows another example of how place-making and nation-building can work hand-in-hand. In this example, I show make the Zapatistas use the meanings of statues to shape their movement. In essence, the Zapatistas use Public Space, Historical Narratives and Cultural Identity to shape their message of resistance that challenges the government’s version of history, heroes and Mexican identity. This Declaration from the Jungle is a famous document that I read in part in the video; for added context, I’ve linked the whole text.
Example #3: “El Caballito“
In an article published in 2009 in Historical Geography, I wrote about another shifting statue in Mexico City. This article is entitled Mobile Monumental Landscapes: Shifting Cultural Identities in Mexico City’s “El Caballito.” This article furthers the idea that changes in the cultural landscape reflect and represent cultural changes within the society.
Example #4: The Joe Paterno Statue
I didn’t dream that the “historical narrative” of this memorial would ever be complex or a contentious issue. After the release of the Freeh report with incriminating evidence that Joe Paterno actively concealed the truth in regard to the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, I wrote what I felt should happen to this monument in a brief op-ed.