Making Space on the Side of the Road:

Towards A Cultural Study of Roadside Car Crash Memorials


With Words and Pictures

by Bob Bednar


Interrupted Journeys


I'm at the museum store inside the International Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe, looking for some books on Indo-Hispanic folk art and Northern New Mexican Hispanic Catholic iconography to help me interpret what I am seeing. I find a self-published book by a local photographer who is attempting to photograph every descanso in Northern New Mexico before they are lost to the vagaries of time, vandals or road construction. I understand the urge--I too want to take pictures of every site I see--but feel that the preservationist drive is counter-productive in this instance.

From what I've seen so far at sites closer to home, the thing that makes them interesting and powerful as cultural forms, IS their temporariness--the way decorations appear and disappear, and the way that those who maintain shrines change decorations to mark seasons, holidays, and anniversaries of births and deaths, the way that some day you'll be driving along and a new cross has sprung up like a rain lilly after a thunderstorm, or how a cross that you've been looking at for months suddenly disappears when the tree it is nailed to is sawed down so that fiber optic cable can be buried.

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All Design, Photography, and Text © 2004

by Bob Bednar

Department of Communication Studies
Southwestern University
Georgetown, Texas 78626
(512) 863-1440