I’m always an adventurer when it comes to traveling. So everywhere I go, I tend to morph into the old fashion explorer in order to give an intellectual, up-close look of the milieu in which I happen to be. The last time I was in Charlotte, I was a university student returning home from Bloomington, Indiana. I remember then it was a sleepy town of the old south, nothing like Miami or even Jacksonville.
Today, Charlotte looks like the wondrous town on a dazzling expansion—the face of the new south with its exclusive suburbs and, believe it or not, a vibrant downtown. Going into town, still in South Carolina in Lancaster County, one could feel the presence of Charlotte’s expansion. Lots of businesses and beautiful hotels on both sides of the road already shed a glimpse of the approaching city. Once, I crossed the State line into North Carolina on I-77, Charlotte was in full bloom before my eyes and that of my wife and children who were with me.
Like most cities of the south, Charlotte is molded within a scenic landscape of towering pines and maples, countless of exotic flowers—wild and raised. In the middle of this, the town sprouts, grows and blossoms. Down on Tryon Street which leads to and from Downtown, I had the impression I was driving down on Rue Sainte Catherine in Downtown Montreal, Canada. Beautiful shops, museums, and libraries can be seeing on both sides of the street.
The main library is also located on this street. So is the Bank of America Stadium, the site of a major soccer game today between the fame English Liverpool and Italian Inter de Milan. This shows the growing clout of Charlotte, attracting professional soccer teams from Europe, thereby contributing to America’s falling in love with professional soccer. The line was long, filled with soccer fans trying to buy tickets for the game.
Besides such attractive Downtown, Charlotte also contains in its folds one of the most beautiful shopping malls scattered around its enchanted suburbs. Among them is Southpark Mall—an upscale shopping mall which houses the best of the best, from Macy’s to Belk to Neiman Marcus to Tiffany to Nordstrom etc… A couple of blocks down, lies an impressive Town Center where one can enjoy some of the finest restaurants like Brio, Maggiano’s etc.. An exotic fountain crafted in the middle of the Town Center shoots its crystal, silvery water, just a foot away from a flowery bed of red vincas and other deciduous natives. Meanwhile, on the sidewalk cafés, tourists and romantic balladeers wine in the glasses.
In fact, shopping malls are growing like mushrooms in the morning dew. On Wednesday, a new mall opened up its doors in North Charlotte. It is an outlet mall that has already attracted thousands in search of new bargains. According to the local news, hundreds of people had to go back home due to lack of parking spaces.
In the new south, Charlotte is second only to Atlanta. But if you like a slower pace, you might want to consider Charlotte. Its immigrant population is also growing, and Mexican shops and restaurants are plentiful. The Haitians ARE also here. A young man who identified himself as Mario told me that Haitians live all over town, like in Jacksonville. But if one wants to get a feel of where the Haitians live, he ought to go to some of the Sunday masses. Haitians love to go to church.
Of course, Charlotte is no different from the rest of America when it comes to the raw differences between the rich and the poor, and one thing I notice, from some personal observations, is that in all cities of the old South, the gap between the enfranchised and the disenfranchised has been expressed at its bluntest form. To a visitor like me, who beholds social injustices everywhere, this shocking factor can only be absorbed with repulsion and apprehension. But this is the true visage of bourgeois democracies everywhere—the greater the wealth, the sharper the differences. To the thousands who can only window-shop, they have been held at bay through a false since of hope that tomorrow might be different. And the beat goes on and on and on……
Nonetheless, Charlotte is truly a wondrous place with ski resorts not far off on the mountains to enjoy during the winter. So, next time you get on your car and drive north or south, depending on where you live, do not hesitate to include Charlotte on your list. This is also where people are friendly and good-natured. More pictures can be found on our Facebook fan page: www.facebook.com/csmsmagazine
Note:Dr. Ardain Isma teaches Cross-Cultural Studies at the University of North Florida (UNF). He is a career educator and he is the Editor-in-Chief for CSMS Magazine. He is the author of “Alicia Maldonado: A Mother Lost” and the author of the soon-to-be-released novel: “Midnight at Noon.” He may be reached email@example.com