Golden Gate Barrio & Foreign Trade Zone

Two Global Transformations of Local Phoenix Space

Animated Visualization of Urban Change 1930-2009.

(temporarily goes to 2012 web site--hit back bar to return to 2013)

This animation shows changes in a central Phoenix area from 1930-2009. Its source is a series of Maricopa County interactive historical aerial photos dating to the 1930s. The sequence stunningly reveals first the appearance and then the disappearance of the residential built environment. In this site, located slightly northeast of Sky Harbor Airport, we see the emergence of the Golden Gate Barrio community and its subsequent erasure by a major freeway and the city's designation of a Foreign Trade Zone.


These changes were produced by a conjunction of two key factors shaping the social space at this urban location:  urban sprawl and global impact (in this project we are especially interested in the latter; for further exploration of the former, see another project in which Dr Koptiuch was involved, Learning From the Margins: Counter-Sprawl Tactics in Phoenix).


1) URBAN SPRAWL: The map sequence clearly shows how sites that today appear as voids, as fragmented and discontinuous spaces, became so as the more recent freeway infrastructure of sprawl was inserted into older urban fabric, disrupting and marooning older neighborhoods to serve sprawl’s centrifugal expansion.  (for further exploration of this factor, see again, Learning From the Margins)


2) GLOBAL IMPACT: The Golden Gate Barrio and other adjacent barrios emerged with the transformation of farmland into communities founded by Latino immigrants from the 1930s on.  Such communities provided an important cultural, social, and economic base for the emergent political voice of Latinos in the Valley in the 1960s. As occurred in many other US cities, urban renewal planning prioritized the interests of sprawl and status-quo governmentality, disrupting this minority political base. The maps show that in the 1960s a major freeway began to cut right thru the historic barrios. The blow of final destruction came in the 1980s when the city used eminent domain to obtain properties for airport expansion and establishment nearby of the Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ). This globally-oriented trade zone now occupies the prime space from which barrio residents were displaced--although at present, as the city's FTZ administrator explained to our class when we met with her, none of the businesses operating there are doing so in accordance with complex FTZ requirements.

Sacred Heart Church
Sacred Heart Church

Besides some commemorative murals along a 16th Street wall bordering this pecular sort of global territory interior to the city, a single startling vestige alerts us to the existence of the once flourishing barrio. Inexplicably marooned in a now-empty field stands the shuttered but still extant Sacred Heart Church. Once the heart of the barrio, the map animation reveals the process of the church's appearance as a ruin in an indeterminate landscape, slowly being encroached by corporate enterprise structures located within the global zone that displaced the local community.


These temporal-spatial mappings show that just as the time-space compression of globalization has transnationalized local Phoenix communities, the compression of local spaces by planning strategies designed to serve the greater valuation accorded to sprawl’s ever new suburban subdivisions on the one hand, and the city's transnational trade dreams on the other, can be disclosed through careful spatial-social analysis. Our class explored both the contemporary border of this global territorial drift into local space, and peered over a temporal edge into an absent historical past that now persists in situe only in the ghostly traces disclosed by the mappings and in the memories displaced residents, who return annually for a Christmas day mass at Sacred Heart.


(Map sequence and interpretation by Kristin Koptiuch; on Golden Gate Barrio see Pete Dimas, Progress and a Mexican American Community's Struggle for Existence: Phoenix's Golden Gate Barrio, 1999)


Site constructed by students in Kristin Koptiuch's Ethnographic Field Lab class at Arizona State University, spring 2013.