The World Progress Now team ventured off on assignment this past week. The destination? Our tiny, dusty, beautiful hometown of Hollister, California. As we entered the place that raised and strengthened us into our twenties, we were propelled into a state of nostalgia. The Mountains of the Diablo range stared at us with a stern crease of the brow and in response we stared back with a sense of symbolic guilt for ever leaving behind her majestic beauty. We whisked past her gaze and onto civilization. Our town, we owe so much and still love as if it is our grandmother’s house today.
The town of Hollister hasn’t progressed much during our lives. Where apricot, walnut, and cherry orchards dotted the landscape, houses now grew. Green space has not been a priority, and the creation of regional and city parks have not been fast moving. Fifty-five percent of the working population commutes by car five days a week. No train exists to take these thousands of people to the same general area every day. Thousands of houses are being built and traffic continues to grow like cholesterol clogging the veins of the landscape. The town we love so much is losing its identity.
The people are the magic of Hollister. Hollister has potential in other areas as well, but the people are its bread and butter; It has fertile land, fantastic weather, great wineries, good beer, fresh everything, the best Mexican food, the best Sushi restaurant, great schools, and a great history.
The History of Hollister is an interesting one. The Ohlone Native American tribes first occupied the landscape living in democratic communes and peacefully (they used symbolic war only as a last resort to solving conflicts) for thousands of years. Then came the Spanish, who enslaved and destroyed the Ohlone culture, language, and their life centered on nature. Next up, Independence for Mexico from Spain and their new style of occupation, which was much more humanist than their precursors and predecessors (The White Man). Well, finally the United States won a war based on Manifest Destiny and Imperialism.
Hollister had some unique characters and ways of living back then. During the American expansion into it’s new land claim, some Mexican individuals did not like the change. Tiburcio Vasquez was a California Bandito, who called Hollister and the surrounding area home. In its heyday, Hollister boasted itself Hay Capital of the World, had a running train that transported people at least two routes a day, and visitors would come to have fun on Whiskey Row known as Fourth Street. More recently, Hollister has become the Birthplace of the American Biker. It has been said to be the Earthquake Capital of the World as well.
Hollister could use any one of these historic phases to rebrand itself. By maintaining a unique identity, the town could generate tourism interest and an increased sense of pride among locals. Hollister could be known for something other than being the sleepy bedroom community of the Silicon Valley. The town should bring back the passenger rail to bring outsiders in to taste the delicious local wines, eat at great local restaurants, shop at local retail stores, and experience the Earthquake Capital of the World firsthand. It seems to us that our hometown doesn’t need to look that hard to find its identity. Just look back.