The border town community of Douglas, Arizona may be small but certainly has strong culture and tradition. Douglas High School sports, holidays and class reunions keep the community on its feet year round. On the negative side, everyone is exposed to drugs one way or another. The use and sale of illegal drugs is very common in Douglas. The smuggling of illegal aliens is also available to anyone looking for quick cash. It takes education and strong role models to keep the youth of Douglas out of trouble.
Douglas football is usually the topic of the town from August to November even though the Bulldogs have not had too many winning teams. The community supports the “dawgs” through thick and thin, mostly the thick. Douglas has a smaller pool to pick athletes from; it is so small everyone who tries out for the team makes it. The majority of the team plays both offense and defense. The “dawgs” play schools that are considerably bigger and stronger, mainly because they have more athletes to choose from. Even though the “dawgs” are tough and always play physical. Coaches always commented on how many hard-hitters Douglas always produced. My father is a Douglas football coach so I have followed the “dawgs” since I can remember; I also know some of the opposing coaches.
Douglas and Bisbee High Schools have one of the longest rivalries in high school football in the country. Both teams play annually for “The Pick.” The Pick is a miner’s picks trophy with the score of the last game played which is held for the year by the winning team. The rivalry is strong and tempers flare between both teams and crowds during the game. The game for the pick is the highlight of the “dawgs” season.
Wrestling has always produced exceptional athletes and given much entertainment during the winter season. Baseball is another sport that attracts many to the parks. It all starts with little league baseball, which is taken very seriously by the players and parents. Caravans of fans follow the all-star teams throughout Southern Arizona during the state playoffs. I have seen cars in Sierra Vista with Douglas All-Stars painted on the windows.
Douglas is a tight-knit Hispanic community with strong family values. Just about everyone knows everyone or has at least heard of the family name. Holidays are a time for families and friends to get together and celebrate. All parks are filled with people for every major holiday. Everyone seems to offer carne asada (grilled steak) as the main course at every celebration. There is nothing like a plate of carne asada served with beans and rice, it reminds me of Douglas.
Birthdays are big events, which fill up backyards or parks. These gatherings are never small because families are so big in this town. Piñatas are a must and are always elaborate. It is very important for the woman of the house to present a clean and fancy setting for her guests. The host always makes sure everyone has had enough to eat. Every person is treated as family, even if they are newly introduced. The host is there to accommodate every guest in her house. Almost everyone gets dressed up for these parties, this makes everything fun and that much more important which means a lot to the younger children.
Quincineras (sweet sixteen) parties are no joke to the people of Douglas. These parties last as long as weddings and are planned well ahead of time. Quincineras consist of a court of boys and girls who perform a dance at the reception. The Quincinera starts out as a ceremony in a Catholic church then moves to a hall for the reception. After the performance by the court, dinner is served, then the floor is open for anyone who wants to dance. Once all the guests are settled in, the dance floor is filled with all generations. Grandparents, parents, teenagers and children all dance. Everyone is dressed for the occasion, the court all wear the same dresses and tuxedos.
Ten-year class reunions are held every year. Year round fund-raisers are held in Douglas on specified weekends. The biggest fundraiser is the G Avenue bed-race. Participants are separated into teams, which make their own bed on wheels. G Avenue is blocked off for the duration of the race. One person is on the bed while two people push the bed from Tenth Street to Fifteenth Street and back. The reunion has different activities over a three-day weekend. People usually end up attending two or three reunions because they are close with people whom graduated a year before or after.
Even though there are many great things about Douglas, there is one that people pay attention to; drugs. Being a border town, drug use and smuggling is big. Everyone is exposed to it one way or another. Many high school students know somebody who can get them involved selling or smuggling for quick cash. A lot of money can be made in this business, which makes it appealing to many. So many high school students get into trouble with the law because of their choice to involve themselves. Many teenagers experiment with drugs and end up using on a regular basis. Liquor, cocaine, marijuana and LSD are what many use when “partying in Douglas.” These drugs are very cheap and easy to come by, most kids don’t even have to pay, there is always someone who has plenty and hands it out free of charge.
I took a trip to Mazatlan, Mexico where I was able to meet and hang out with many people from Colorado, Phoenix and New Mexico. When they found out I was from Douglas, Arizona they all asked if I had any marijuana with me. They were excited to hear about the availability and prices of drugs that Douglas offered. Many mentioned the drug tunnel that ran from a house in Agua Prieta Sonora across the border to a warehouse in Douglas, Arizona. The drug tunnel is my hometown’s claim to fame.
I have seen many people ruin their lives because of drugs. Douglas youth grow up quickly because of drugs, many have a relative or friend who has been in trouble or has a problem. Even though kids are exposed, they don’t fully understand the effects drugs have or the consequences people face when using or selling. For some simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time can lead them to trouble.
Selling drugs isn’t the only way someone can make quick cash; transporting illegal aliens offers quick cash. I have had two friends who decided to give illegals a ride for money. One friend made $500 to take three men to Phoenix, Arizona and another who made $250 to drive five men in a strangers van to a spot in the desert fifteen minutes out of Douglas. Easy cash for a simple task can leave teenagers in a juvenile facility. The youth of Douglas needs strong positive role models to keep them in line and help them overcome the obstacles thrown in front of them.
Even though people know Douglas for their border issues and stereotype me for simply growing up in Douglas, I am proud to say I come from a town where people are so welcoming they greet people with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. I have been told that it is strange for me to kiss girls on the cheek in front of their husband or family but that is the way we grew up. Every woman close to us gets a hug and a kiss and every man gets a hug. It seems people from Douglas can spot somebody else from Douglas even though there may be a ten-year age difference. People remember each other even if they met each other once through a friend or cousin. I have yet to experience a community as a whole to be as family and friend oriented as I have in Douglas. Citizens of Douglas take so much pride in their town the Douglas motto is, “The Premier Southwestern Border Community.”