Heavener, Oklahoma has become a border town.Natives are calling it Little Tijuana, however Heavener has no Catholic church yet, only small closet downtown.

In a short time, the sleepy little Oklahoma town has been overrun by scores of Mexicans who have come to town to work in the huge chicken plant there.

I liked my mom’s reaction to the whole controversy. She said:

“If they don’t like it, well, it’s their own fault for not wanting to work in the chicken plant.”

Working in chicken processing plants is hard, disgusting work. The area is filled with poverty. Since the rise of Walmart and other discount chains, the downtown areas have been reduced to rows of secondhand shops. It’s a far cry from when I visited as a boy. Heavener was never really “Main-Street America,” of the form that exists in a lot of Midwestern towns; it’s always been a sort of frontier outpost, where the seedy side of America pokes its stubble through.

I first saw The Wild One in a theater in downtown Heavener in the 70s. It was still popular then. One of my uncles lived there, alongside some railroad tracks. Bill Thompson would disappear into the surrounding hills for days on end; Bill ran a still, chewed tobacco, and drank from mason jars. Heavener was a hillbilly wonderland.

I’d always meant to go there someday and photograph it, but the Heavener I knew no longer exists.

Downtown Heavener, Oklahoma, reflects cultures with a high misery index in collision

This building is a center of controversy. The owner, to please potential Mexican tenants, painted it bright purple on one side, and blue on the other. I thought it looked gorgeous. The long-time residents however, think it’s an outrage.

There was a bright florescent green building next door, but they didn’t seem to complain about that. They are trying to have the building declared a national landmark, so that the owner will be forced to restore it to it’s prior, dilapidated, condition.

You can’t please all the people all the time.

All the taquerias were closed when I was there. It made me sad. I really wanted a real taco. Most of the rednecks really don’t know what they are missing. When cultures come together, usually, the food gets better.

That’s the main problem I have with living in such a “black and white” part of the country. Even the ethnic restaurants tone down their cuisine to please the customers whose palates have two settings: barbequed or fried. Those options bored me really quickly; brown people have some of the best food, at least in my opinion.

I did take some snapshots that hold on to a bit of the old flavor though, just for the heck of it. Old Heavener has much more of a brick-red and piss-yellow sort of thing going on.

1 thought on “Heavener”

  1. wow, i loved this 🙂 looks so strange to me yet reminds me a lot of some wacky towns here in oz. love the pics.
    I’m not far from Heavener but haven’t been there in years (sis used to live there, but usually when I’d go there it would be for liquor). Chicken plants, Hispanics, and Wal-Mart and a decayed downtown…very familiar setting.

    Actually, the Walmart Supercenter is in nearby Poteau. I’ve got more photos of that to come.

    hello. i am a resident of heavener oklahoma, lived here all my life. i was born in poteau oklahoma. i was born into a poor family and was preety much treated as such by a lot of people around here. i rember my attitude was one of discrimination when the hispinacs first started comming in. then i started working at the chicken plant. i got to know a few and eventually learned a little of the language. the mexicans, as they call themselves, are very friendly. always willing to share a meal and lend a hand to a friend in need.they give as good as they get. i have yet to meet one that judges me the way most white people do. this includes men and women. we take alot of our lifestyle for granted. were they view it as a great gift. yes they come here to make money but the money they spend here helps line the pockets of the heavener commerce. however they are often taken advantage of by the people wishing to fill their pockets. housing cost have skyrocketed. even for a bateman mansion the cost is not less than 300.00-*400.00. most of thes homes were declared unlivable by the department of health but are now rentable, to a mexican used to living in a home with nothing but a dirt floor.call me crazy but there is good and bad in every race. but a person usually finds what hes wanting to see. sharon s. sanchez,
    I have lived outside of heavener in hodgen all my life and i have notice the rise in the mexican population in heavene. i am currently attending heavener high shcool and there is alot more mexican students thean there was 3 years ago. im not really racist but i don’t really like the mexican in town but i try tolerate them as the best i can but i do have to admit there would be no heavener without them but as long as they stay in heavener and not in hodgen everything well be allright but if they start moving into hodgen there will be some ticked off rednecks (like me)…
    Hello, I’m a resident of Hodgen Ok. I’m a working mother I have 3 kids ages 5, 3 1/2, 2. And I have notice the rise in hispanics in Heavener over the past 5 years. Hodgen is a small rural town about 4 or 5 miles south of heavener and if u think heavener is FULL of rednecks… you should come visit Hodgen. But the rise in mexicans has GREATLY increased like almost 3/4 of heavener is now mexican “turf” personally I have no problams w/ them but I think the major reason that the people of heavenr are so racy is because of how fast they came, I mean a@ first maybe a few lived here and then it what seems like days there swamping heavener! But they really help w/ the chicken plant and all that stuff, trust me i have worked @ the chicken plant and its not the best job in the world!!! Also why people are so racy is because most of them are old farts who are racy against any body who has any dif. skin tone and dont belive in what they do!! thats all i have to say! by the way u need to update ur pics they are so old those buliding have changed b-sides the purple one!

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