• Essay

    Do Californians Love Their Houses Too Much?

    A Fourth-Generation Homeowner Reconsiders the California Dream

    By Joe Mathews

        No house on earth means more to me than my paternal grandparents’ small blue home near the bottom of a windswept hill in the Bay Area city of San Mateo.
        I’ve entered this place thousands of times; I even lived there for a few months when I was 7. But this visit will be different.
        While 420 Voelker Drive still belongs to my family, my grandparents have died and my uncle has moved in. He has a roommate, a generous woman who will greet me warmly and make dinner, but isn’t a relative. Before she and her son moved in with my uncle, they didn’t have a home. ...


    The Black Women Soldiers Who Demanded Opportunities

    During World War II, Four African Americans at Fort Devens, Massachusetts Went on Strike to Do Skilled Jobs Instead of ‘Maid Work’

    By Sandra M. Bolzenius

    In late 1944, four African-American women—Mary Green, Anna Morrison, Johnnie Murphy and Alice Young—enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps, or WAC, the ...

New at Zócalo


The Pioneering Cornell Anatomist Who Sought to Bring 'Honor' and 'Duty' to College Life

At the Turn of the 20th Century, Burton Green Wilder Railed Against Frivolous Activities and Thought Privileged Students Should Hold Each Other to Higher Standards

By Richard M. Reid

    In 1901, Cornell University students created a new holiday on campus, called “Spring Day.”
    Many faculty members objected to the holiday, but few were as visible and vocal as professor Burt Green Wilder, who would go on to become a defining, if little-known, figure in American higher education.
    Spring Day built upon a relatively new tradition: During the 1890s students began holding a dance and fundraiser, the Navy Ball, prior to major fall regattas. Not surprisingly, on the day of the regatta, class attendance was low. But attendance became even more abysmal in 1901, when the students moved the Navy Ball to March and reorganized it as a “circus parade” and noontime concert to benefit the Cornell ...


Are You Cursed If You Steal Rocks From the Petrified Forest?

A Photographer Ponders Beauty, Truth, and the Guilt of Visitors Who Pilfer Souvenirs From the Arizona National Park

By Ryan Thompson

    In 2011, I was traveling in Arizona photographing meteorites and the misidentified meteorites known as “meteor-wrongs.” My work with the meteor-wrongs went quicker than expected and my wife and I saw the Petrified Forest National Park wasn’t far away, so we took a day trip out that way. And that’s where I stumbled onto a display of these letters, written by people who’d taken petrified rocks from the park but then wanted to send them back.
    I was blown away by the letters. They were at turns heartbreaking and hilarious. People want to do good, and you can see them wrestling with the idea that they’re trying to undo what they did. Additionally, there are stories upon stories of bad luck—from a plane crash near the park to car troubles, and even illness—all attributed to the pilfered stones. ...

Connecting California Joe Mathews


  • By Benjamin Garcia

    To be a traitor is to trade—
    Take, for example, the blue macaw
    of my childhood, traded
    for two rocks of ...

  • By Carrie Fountain

    February is checking my e-mail
    while waiting at the drive-thru
    dry cleaners to pick up ...

  • By Ángel García

    I trace my finger along a worn map:
    from Chicago to Tabasco
    from Tabasco to Campeche
    from Campeche to ...