Arizona centennial: Why we love the Wild West

As you present your significant other with a Build-A-Bear or some other token of affection likely to be embroidered with a Hallmark logo, don’t forget to wish another special someone a happy birthday. This can’t be achieved via their Facebook wall or through a text message. It’s simpler than that. Walk out into the desert sun, take a deep breath, appreciate the saguaros and the beauty of your surroundings and let it out: “Happy 100th Arizona!”

The Grand Canyon State is 100 years old. We’re celebrating our centennial, and we couldn’t be happier about it, especially when there is so much to commemorate.

In the 100 years since making the leap from territory to statehood, Arizona has gone from being part of the untamable Wild West to a destination hub for tourism, businesses and various industries. There is something distinctively Arizonan about our music, food, architecture, fashion — our culture is the melting pot within the melting pot. Not only do we draw inspiration from our arid environment or influence from the mountains and red rocks that tower over our cities, but our culture is consistently shaped by the influx of midwestern transplants, out-of-state college students , or anyone else that happens upon this former desert outpost and can’t seem to find it within themselves to leave.

Perhaps the culture of Arizona is so diverse because the geographic landscape of the state is a beacon of diversity  itself. Your morning might include cursing the sun as you sweat in Phoenix but by the afternoon, you could be staring at snow-capped peaks in Flagstaff, or gazing into one of the greatest natural wonders of the world — the Grand Canyon. Even a 45-minute drive across the Valley will provide a change of scenery. Each town or city that makes up the Phoenix area offers a different vibe, a uniquely Arizonan experience.

Arizona is proud, stubborn and obviously still going through some growing pains. As one of the youngest of the continental United States, it iss still figuring out its identity, not just in terms of a unified culture, but also politically and economically.

Immigration, a recall election and medical marijuana are just a few issues bringing criticism and praise to Arizona from across the country. After the recent national recession and housing collapse, we’ve had to develop a new, diverse economy not built on construction and sprawl.

But Arizona’s population continues to grow and major events continue to make their way to the Valley. Snowbirds nest here, nature-lovers explore the mountains and students study at a school with its own share of history.

This is our place of study, this is our home and this is our Arizona.


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