Saturday, April 19, 2008


We went to Postville this week with my confronting the borders class. We arrived, and walked around town in small groups visiting stores and talking to people. One of the most interesting conversations I had was at the only flower shop in town. We (myself and two of my classmates) ended up talking to the two white women working in the shop. The interesting part of the conversation was when we asked about holidays. One of the women talked about how they do flowers for everyone, for "those Jewish celebrations" and also for the "Mexican" celebrations, "like Cinco se Mayo." Yes, that's right, she completely mispronounced it. The hilarious part was that she then continued to say "I think that's coming up soon, isn't it May 10th?"

We also asked about education, and that also got us a few entertaining responses. We got on to the topic of athletics because we mentioned we were from Decorah and Postville beat Decorah at some high school athletic event recently. One of the women mentioned that there are several Latino wrestlers on the high school team, but that they don't always show up for practice or put in the effort. I asked her why she thought that was the case. Her comment was very insightful. She said it was because the parents didn't push their children or instill the right values of attending practice every day. However, she analyzed her own comment (unknowingly) by stating that when the parents work and their kids need to go home to babysit or to work and make money, they don't always show up for practice.

Another entertaining interaction we had was with a strange old man outside the Guatemalan restaurant. He stopped us and called us "you Decorah people" before proceeding to tell us about how integrated the town is, that there is a Mexican and Guatemalan restaurant, that the "a Taste of Postville" celebration in the summer always brings the community together, and that the kosher grocery store has a very nice selection. He then proceeded to tell us that he had eaten the fried chicken at the Guatemalan restaurant. I could be wrong, but I don't think fried chicken is a Guatemalan specialty. The most interesting topic he talked about was the laundromat connected to "The Sweet Spot," which is an ice cream parlor. He made a comment that it was very good for the immigrants in town because "those people don't have washers and dryers" and that their children can play in the back room that they've got set up with coloring tables and blocks, and that they can get ice cream while they wait. Weird assumptions made on many counts.

On the whole, the town is a pretty fascinating mix of Hasidic Jews, white rural Iowans, and immigrant workers from Eastern Europe and Latin America. I kind of hope that a more updated book gets written than the one that was written in the 1990s. I feel like a lot has changed in the world since then, and that the United States obsession/fear with/of terrorism and immigrants probably had a significant affect on the town.

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