Pubdate: Thu, 25 Aug 2016
Source: North Coast Journal (Arcata, CA)
Column: The Week in Weed
Copyright: 2016 North Coast Journal
Author: Linda Stansberry


Who's Afraid of the Bulgarians?

I get alarmed calls every week about the Bulgarians. They're paying 
exorbitant sums for property in Petrolia, Bridgeville and Alderpoint, 
I'm told. They're jogging along rural roads with automatic rifles 
strapped to their backs, according to one woman at a recent community 
meeting. They're buying out family ranches and slowly taking over the 
county. And - although absolutely no proof has been offered from 
either my tipsters or law enforcement - they're all somehow connected 
to an organized crime cartel.

Shocking stuff, to be sure. And maybe at least 40 percent true. There 
is an established trend of Eastern Europeans buying property in rural 
Humboldt County. I don't even have to scan the rolls of the county 
assessor's office to substantiate this, I just have to go home to 
Honeydew and sit on the store porch for a while. As for the rifles 
and the cartel rumors, hey, they could be true, too. It's not that I 
don't believe you, neighbors, it's just that I think this Bulgarian 
mania is a symptom of an ugly, hypocritical xenophobia, and I'm a 
little embarrassed that you don't see it.

When my grandmother was a girl in Depression-era Ferndale, she was 
taught to shun the newly-arrived Portuguese immigrants. They were, 
she was told, "not white" and "not from around here." A century 
later, the passage of time has smoothed the bite of this. Ferndale 
institutions are proudly peppered with Portuguese last names. Every 
May, the community gathers to celebrate the Festival of the Holy 
Ghost. Ferndale proves in miniature what sociologists write large on 
American history - that communities are strengthened rather than 
dissolved by immigration and inclusion.

We have had Bulgarian and Polish neighbors in Honeydew for almost 20 
years. I have yet to see proof that they're exploiting the Green Rush 
with more rapacity than the Colombians, the Floridians, the New 
Jersey-ites, the Los Angelenos, the Mexicans, than any other group of 
"outsiders" that arrive every day. And they're not doing anything 
different than the good ol' boys have been doing for years. You know 
the good ol' boys I'm talking about: my cousins, your sons, our 
neighbors. Probably a few third-generation Portuguese families, too. 
Taking the long view of history, those Bulgarians may well be good 
ol' boys in a few generations, the children of hard-working immigrant 
entrepreneurs who had the vision to get in on the ground floor of the 
pot economy.

Granted, the pot economy is not pretty, but neither was the gold 
rush, nor the timber rush. There are lots of problems in the weed 
industry, but the main problem isn't the who, but the what. Time 
spent pointing fingers at the people who talk and look different than 
us is time wasted. Time spent actually getting to know your 
neighbors, convincing them to drive a little slower or showing them 
how to store water, is incremental work, but it's ultimately more 
productive. And if you have proof that Eastern Europeans specifically 
are eroding our culture and landscape, for goodness sakes, bring it 
to me. But don't cry "Bulgarians!" as a shorthand for your fear and insecurity.

A few weeks ago I ran into a neighbor who had read my article on 
mixed-light grows and light pollution. He liked it! He agreed with 
me! It was thrilling, to be honest, and now he says there's at least 
one less greenhouse blurring the night sky in the Mattole. But his 
buddy the next ridge over had dismissed it at a glance.

"She's not even from around here," he said.

Editor's note: In the interest of full disclosure, Linda Stansberry 
has had Bulgarian neighbors since the 1990s and in the past happily 
accepted gifts from them. Specifically, one of them gave her a 
Walkman for her 10th birthday, back when a Walkman was expensive and 
pot was much more illegal than it is now. Make of that what you will.
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