Skip to comments.Attack, Arabs, American Dreams Converge in NM Town (What is going on here???)
Posted on 08/13/2002 7:34:57 AM PDT by Tancred
Attack, Arabs, American Dreams Converge in NM Town Mon Aug 12,12:15 PM ET
By Zelie Pollon
GALLUP, New Mexico (Reuters) - Along the famed U.S Route 66 highway and deep in a New Mexico community that bills itself as "the Heart of Indian Country," Jamal Abdel Jawad spreads a prayer carpet and calls to Allah.
Jawad is one of nearly 300 Palestinian immigrants who have settled in the isolated, Wild West town of Gallup, on the state's western border with Arizona. And like many of his immigrant compatriots, he makes his living selling American Indian jewelry and trinkets to tourists.
For Jawad and other Palestinians in the town, their American dreams center around their souvenir stands and the American Indian jewelry business. And their American dreams were tested by the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, Palestinians in Gallup suffered in the backlash against Arabs living in the United States as well as from the downward spiral of the U.S. economy. Their businesses suffered and several in the community were taunted with racist barbs.
"From September to December it was a nightmare," said Nash Khalay, a Palestinian immigrant who owns Al Zuni Global Jewelry Traders. He said wholesale and retail jewelry sales stayed at an all-time low until January.
But thanks to sexy models in bikinis, support from a community that saw the economic value of the jewelry trade and friendships with neighbors that spanned three decades, the racial slurs stopped and business picked up.
Turquoise and Indian jewelry became hot fashion accessories at the start of this year when Sports Illustrated included turquoise-clad women in its famous swimwear edition. Several other magazines also included turquoise in issues published around the same time, sending the market climbing upward.
"It was international marketing. By January a force took over and turquoise became very strong. We can hardly supply the demand," Khalay said.
Jawad and Khalay say the people of Gallup have been accepting, even more so since the attack of Sept. 11.
"People sent cards, called and offered support. They went out of their way to be supportive," Jawad said.
"The economic factor is the biggest thing, but we've also brought a new culture a new way of seeing things and thinking, of dispelling myths. We Palestinians don't have humps and tails," Jawad joked.
Palestinian immigrants started arriving in the New Mexico border area in the early 1970s and entered into the American Indian jewelry trade. Word spread fast and soon dozens of family members and friends, most from Ramallah on the West Bank, began to flood in, laden with dreams of making it big selling Indian goods.
Jawad moved from Ramallah 22 years ago and lives in Gallup with his wife and four children. Three of his brothers and his father have also joined him and help with his sprawling All Tribes Indian Center. Khalay came from Ramallah in 1973 and his family followed soon after.
Gallup was settled in 1881 as a railroad town and quickly became known as a "migratory area for cultures worldwide," said Sally Noe, a local historian, and author of the book, "Gallup, New Mexico, USA: Our Story."
With nearby Zuni and Navajo American Indian reservations, the area gained a reputation as a center for Indian crafts and now claims the "largest cottage industry in the United States with the Indian Crafts," Noe said.
There are more than 100 Indian trading posts in and around Gallup and the majority are run or owned by Palestinian-Americans, said Ed Jungbluth, Executive Director of the Gallup Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Although there are no official figures, merchants estimate the American Indian jewelry trade brings in tens of millions of dollars a year to the city with a population of just over 20,000.
When the tourists roll in for festivals or rodeos, the number of people in Gallup can mushroom to more than 100,000, said Barbara Quinones, president of the local chamber of commerce ( news - web sites).
Quinones said residents are proud to recount how Gallup was one of the only towns in the country that refused to intern their Japanese-American neighbors during World War II.
It was into this ethnically diverse community that immigrating Palestinians were absorbed.
While many in the Palestinian-American community feel an affinity with the American Indians, the feeling from the local Native American population is not always mutual -- at least as far as commerce is concerned.
"They're taking over our businesses and messing up our prices," said Freida Begay, a Navajo Indian who works in a nearby jewelry shop.
Neither do the Jews, or other non-Muslims -- Jawad. And the sooner your countrymen and co-religionists stop teaching their children to hate Jews, and stop believing that rules of humane behavior only apply to other Muslims, the sooner the world can be at peace.
I think you'll find that this area was always a part of Palestine. What's going on is simple the peaceful Palestinians taking back the land wrongfully occupied by Indians.
How true. And the
Egyptian, Syrian, Iraqi, Lebanese Palestinians certainly deserve that land. But God help the Indians, car bombs aren't fun.
What the heck is wrong with humps and tails????
My imagination suggests that Gallup feels like 'home' to these immigrants, only without the wars and with more opportunities. More power to them- if they want to work and assimilate into the culture- and this area is loaded with local color (quirky) and culture.
Notice how he didn't deny having horns on his head and a forked tounge.
You are so right on. The driving force of capitalism is competition which is not a significant part of Navajo culture. Competition destroys "balance." I remember back during the hanta virus mess stumbling across a PSA on a Navajo radio station about the use of bleach and dealing with rodents. The theme was not 'do this to protect yourself' it was 'do this to restore harmony.' Their's is a beautiful and fascinating culture but not one equipped to thrive in a capitalist society.