The Three Bisbees: Of Tofu, Venison, and Tamales

DenizenJust-Sayin-webs of Bisbee, I suggest to you there are three Bisbees, not merely one. Bear with me. It’s important I get this right.

Let’s begin with Old Bisbee. The majority of hotels and eateries are located there and the place has lots of historic stuff. This Bisbee is populated by good folks, who, in one way or another, have transplanted themselves from far-away places to make their home here. This is Tofu Bisbee and it tends to be Anglo-dominant and inclined to bluish election results.

Next is San Warren, if you will. This is a different demographic. This is Venison Bisbee. They live in Warren and San Jose and have lived in the area many, many moons. They are often graduates of Bisbee High School as are some of their children, and in some cases, were their parents. You got folks of European descent and you got folks of Mexican-American descent. There’s a handful of folks nobody knows anything about because they live off the grid out there somewhere and really can’t be bothered. Like the Old Bisbee Tofu Eaters, these Warren San Jose Venison Types, these are good people too. Politically, they are more a mix of Red and Blue and don’t appreciate it when people like me try to label them because they don’t do well in boxes.

The third constituent part of our Bisbee community is Naco, both Nacos. Naco, SON, and Naco, AZ. Here’s why, Gente. When you have people who pay sales tax at businesses and buy gas and shop at the supermarket and frequent ACE and B&D Hardware and send their kids to Bisbee schools, and buy this newspaper, and eat tofu in Old Bisbee and hunt deer, then make venison tamales, well, then, you have another part of Bisbee, the third part of Bisbee, Tamale Bisbee.

Now, given  my demographic prowess, I need to suggest to you why I have identified the three Bisbee’s and why I would like you to consider my analysis. But first, my bona fides: I’ve lived in Bisbee nearly fourteen years. For the first seven of those years, I served St. John’s Episcopal Church in Tofu Bisbee and thought that all of Bisbee was like me. Then I started teaching at the high school and discovered that there were lots of people living in Venison Bisbee (like most of the police and fire departments) who had far more experience with the community than I had. And, the whole time I’ve been in the area, I’ve visited Tamale Bisbee where I have friends, play guitar, and have attended church on occasion.

I know the area. I love the area. I write the above because our three Bisbees can sometimes misrepresent, ignore, or be critical of the other two. I hear things like, ‘Oh, that’s those damn hippies in Old Bisbee’ or ‘those conservatives in Warren’ or ‘those wets from Naco.’ I have students who have never ventured up Tombstone Canyon. I know people in Old Bisbee who are surprised to learn there are Republicans in the area. I have some students who think that liberal is a bad word.  I hear these things and I think we suffer from some of the same polarization that is happening all over the country. We too easily label each other in order to dismiss or target. Doing this negates our human complexity and makes things worse, not better.

Bisbee is a wonderful place to live. My wife and I have raised our daughter here. We’ve lived here longer than any other place in my adult life. This is what I know: The places we come together, places like the Safeway, Warren Ball Park, the Farmers Market, the Bisbee Pool and park; when we are gathered there, for a variety of occasions, we are at our best, greeting friends, exchanging news- sharing the good life. Its harder to be critical of someone when you’re waiting in the checkout line together or watching kids play football. One of the blessings of small town life is the opportunity to get to know and be known by others. I love the diversity of our community. A diverse biological habitat tends to survive and strive because of its complexity. People who satisfy their palate-and hunger-with a wider variety of food types tend to be hungry less often.