So, yesterday, my hubby and I drove to Rivers, AZ, a small town south of Phoenix. We drove versus rode because my hubby does not own a bike, he won’t ride behind me (can you blame him?), and I won’t ride behind him (can you blame me?). Any time we want to see something together, we drive there. Anyway, in Rivers is a very peculiar sight. Right off of the 10 freeway, there sits an abandoned property that is marked, on the road, by a withering, strangely enigmatic, but simple sign:
Closed? What’s closed? Your eye naturally travels slightly north and there, silent and sullen in the baking desert is an adobe-style building, surrounded by chain-link fencing, on top of which is fastened an ominous curl of barbed wire.
At first glance, it appears to have been an old city building of some sort or a library. But, no; it’s nothing of the kind. This building, as it turns out, is an abandoned memorial to the WW II Japanese Internment Camps that once stood on this very spot (and other nearby spots) in the parched desert. The Gila River Interment Camps were here.
This is a sad place. This is a lonely place. The only sign of living anything are the steadfast witnesses, the Saguaro and other cacti, that have graced this location much longer than the camps and subsequent failed memorial have. My heart is heavy as I walk around here.
One reason is that a perfectly good building is in disrepair and moldering away while the world races past, not far from it, on the 10 freeway. But, the real reason that my heart aches is for the people who suffered here under the US government’s disgraceful justification of their imprisonment based on ethnicity and war.
Hundreds of thousands of innocent people were held here against their will as “enemies of the USA” for no other reason than they were of Japanese descent and the US was at war with Japan. Adding insult to injury, was that this was tribal land, but the government simply moved in and without permission set up massive camps to house the prisoners. Many of the Japanese people being rounded up were, in fact, US citizens and had owned businesses and property prior to being brought out here. They lost everything.
The following 30′ tall Saguaro stands in very front of the memorial, in defiance of the wrong-doing that took place here but a witness to it all. This cactus is well over 100 years old.
And, another shot of the sad structure:
Naturally, so many questions race through my mind. How long did this memorial operate? What made it go bankrupt? When did it close? Why doesn’t anyone care about preserving the memories, albeit, disgraceful ones, of what happened here?* But, the building did not tell us its secrets. It just stood there, looking blankly back at us. The sun beating down. The afternoon winds building and scattering small rocks at our feet with every gust. This, a forlorn and forgotten place, commemorating a sad time in history that few people think about any more.
*What’s really strange is I came home and did some research, but I cannot find any information on line about this building itself or when it closed. I found quite a bit about the internment camps in AZ, but as for this stucco building, no mention. It’s truly a mystery.