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Valeria Saucedo Ojeda
English 114B @ 2
Professor Gifford
March 16, 2013
Santa Maria: Space and Change

When exploring a space for the first time, the mind automatically scans the layout,
peoples’ behaviors, and arrives to a conclusion based on their personal interpretation. This
assumption can be greatly changed when finding out the history of a certain area. California is a
well-known state that holds a melting pot of cultures all which contribute to the variety of usage
of the land. To many, it is a land of opportunity which signifies somewhere worth fighting for
because they can have security and a chance to fulfill their dreams. Even though California is
represented as having favorable living conditions, there is still much tension associated with race
and power. The agricultural based city of Santa Maria, California is experiencing a rising conflict
between migrant workers and white residents.
The separation between the locations of jobs has formed borders in the small city of
Santa Maria because of race. There are 70.4% Hispanics that make up the population, in which
as much as 33% are not documented. These people are always seen as working jobs that require
little or no skills. Orcutt, which businesses are run by whites is located in the South of the city
whereas looking at the small businesses around the farmland, Hispanics are the main workers.
Gloria Anzaldua, author of The Homeland, Aztlán states that “borders are set up to define the
places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them” (25). Anzaldua, speaking in
general, describes the struggle of racism that is set up by a border that implies hatred toward
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others. In this case, the businesses in orcutt are seen as borders to Hispanics because they
symbolize a warning that they are not wanted there.
The immigrant communities spread throughout the city have intensified the tension of
suspicion for public safety. Just as these communities gather together, it wasn’t long until an
indirect attack came from the news; FBI’s 2012 crime report stated that “Santa Maria made the
top ten most violent California city list with a crime rate of 6.78 violent crimes per 1,000
residents” (?news site).Since most of the people living there are immigrants, whites blame them
for the societal issues happening. Many of them do not have legal papers to be in the U.S. but
even though they are here, they do try to maintain a low profile because if they get caught, they
will get deported. Families risked their lives to cross the border in order to have a better life for
them and their family so breaking the law would not be something they want to do. Because they
live in housing projects, it is assumed that they are dangerous people. It is not only here in Santa
Maria that this issue of segregation could be related but also to areas that have many different
ethnicities living there.
The construction of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) facility in
2014 has created an atmosphere filled with fear in Santa Maria. Still going through the process of
being discussed by the city council, there has been many protests formed by undocumented
people which have been one of the largest ever seen in the city. Despite these strong voices in the
public, ICE responds with assuring them that they are only there because the location is better for
easy transfers of criminals to jails. The book Rhetoric for Radicals, written by Jason Del Gandio
conveys how “a vibe is a form of communication that with a large group of people, intensifies in
communicating an emotion” (171). A vibe is given off by a single human body, but when it is
grouped together with others who possess the same passion, it produces a vibe that spreads
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throughout the space; the immigrants are still skeptical due to the fact that past sweeps have been
conducted by the immigration centers.
The new location of the new ICE center is detrimental to the economy because the fear
being caused will more likely make the immigrants become more doubtful of the situation.
Recently in the news( Lompoc Record) , James Murr, who opposes the issue spoke up “ it is
irrational to move 45 minutes away from the prison, into a residential area with a medical center,
businesses and shops” ( source??). Lompoc, where the old center is located at, is a smaller,
calmer city where it is ideal to have this kind of center. In comparison , Santa Maria is not far
from Lompoc, contradicting the reason for better distance that ICE stated earlier. Imposing
immigration centers and ignoring the people’s opinions in the area is a clear indication that the
certain group, in this case illegal immigrants, are wanted out of the area, thus being a form of
Along with heated debate in the small city, the economy plays a big role in how whites
feel superior and a need to be in control of the economy. Taking in mind that 28.8% of the
businesses are owned by Hispanics, the establishment of the ICE facility will more than likely
drive the immigrants away because of fear of deportation. They are the ones who in the end, are
sustaining he economy of Santa Maria because they work in the tough jobs such as the fields.
Without the diversity of business ownership there is no doubt that the economy of the city will
face great problems. Gloria Anzaldua, while describing how borders separate power, says that
“gringos in the U.S. Southwest consider the inhabitants of the borderlands trangressors, aliens-
whether they possess documents or not, whether they’re Chicanos, Indians, or Blacks” (25). The
issue of superiority comes once you cross a border such as the one From Califoria and Mexico; it
is here in this city where immigrants feel they are seen as less than the whites. As more
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immigrants are slowly coming back to the homeland from their ancestors, tensions will grow for
whom will have the final say in who the economy and government will be run by.