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Two Notions

May 11, 2009

Portland, Oregon, has recently become embroiled in a sometimes acrimonious discussion about renaming some street or another for labor activist César Chávez.

Now, I’m not a big fan of renaming streets for anything or anyone, actually – especially streets that already have perfectly good names or numbers that fit in the grid. It seems to me like a rather ineffective and mealy-mouthed way to honor someone whose significance usually has little or nothing to do with traffic flow; better to build a building or a park that people will go to, rather than just drive on, to honor someone’s legacy. But it seems that I’m outnumbered in this regard, so… here, at least half-seriously, are my suggestions:

1. The perfect existing street to rename, given the divisive nature of the act in general, is of course Division Street.
This is not a NIMBY suggestion, either; I live near there.

Or, if that doesn’t fly,

2. How about renaming César Chávez himself, to a street name that already exists? Sure, all the history books will need to be changed, but at least local businesses won’t have to change their phone book entries, and those expensive street signs can stay the same:

“North Interstate was a Mexican American farm worker, labor leader, and civil rights activist who…”

Sound appealing?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Laura permalink
    May 12, 2009 4:34 pm

    …No one can be named Pedro,
    no one is Rosa or Maria,
    all of us are dust or sand,
    all of us are rain in the rain.
    They have talked to me of Venezuelas,
    of Paraguays and Chiles,
    I don’t know what they’re talking about:
    I’m aware of the earth’s skin
    and I know that it doesn’t have a name….

    ~Pablo Neruda, Too Many Names

    A park would be better, yes, perhaps a statue or sculpture for a visual reminder, but seems to me it might be nice to honor people with actions, moreso than words. Just my 2 cents…and Pablo’s, of course.

    • May 12, 2009 5:26 pm

      Oh, I quite agree, about actions vs. words – but we fallible human beings do benefit from having a physical reminder in front of us. That’s why street renaming is so popular; it does put the honoree’s name where we can see and use it. I just think that going down that particular road (heh) is also disruptive and divisive (no matter who’s being honored!) and would like to see a different tangible memento mori.

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