The Culture of Stay-at-Home Appliances

Texas Prestige South Padre Island Highway Sign

Washers.

Ovens.

Refrigerators.

Microwaves.

Few things sum up the radical difference in border psyche better than the concept of appliances. In most other parts of the United States, the hassle and expense of transporting heavy house appliances is avoided because everyone simply leaves these appliances behind whenever they move. In the Rio Grande Valley, however, there is a self-fulfilling culture of fear regarding houses. Most people would never move into an apartment without appliances in other places in the United States; in the Valley, this is the norm because everyone plays “musical appliances” when they switch abodes. There is such a fear that the person in the other house is taking their washer/dryer that you take yours, so that the person moving into your old place must then move theirs, and the person next residing in theirs……..The increasing fears of appliance-less houses only adds to its verity.

While this may seem like a trivial culture anomaly, it signals a mindset which indelibly marks the Valley. Brownsville, TX, has one of the most historic downtowns in Texas, if not the nation. However, one would be hard-pressed to notice these architectural beauties or historic landmarks because of the dilapidated downtown and the atrophy of business. This idea of looking out only for business has stripped the downtown and left only ropas usadas and cheap dollar stores in beautiful buildings. Stores left the downtown to take up residence in strip malls, strip malls which only add to the suburbanization and sprawl, which inevitably lead to more strip malls and more housing developments.

As sad and complicated as this situation on the border might seem at first, all that is needed is a true cultural philosophy shift. If city planners could see the value in saving, restoring, and reviving downtown businesses, then perhaps it would become a profitable and beautiful place once more. If people would only stop moving their ovens and microwaves, then eventually no one would have to in the near future.

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