Surprise Kitsch in South Carolina
South of Which Border?
South of the Border in Dillon, SC
Look at this picture. Now that you see what you've been missing all your life, time to read my story and then go out onto the internet to find information on this Roadside Attraction.This is my personal story.
Background: How Did This All Happen?
My family transplanted itself from San Francisco to northern Virginia in the early 2000s. Both my husband and I are originally from the North East. We really miss San Fran but we've discovered lots of benefits in moving our children here; visiting relatives and seeing East Coast cities like Washington D.C., New York City and Philadelphia. Special treats are going to the Jersey Shore and the beautiful Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains.
It was also good for me as well to be physically in the East coast to tie up loose family ends. Im the family archivist and I got my fathers music compositions digitized, printed and submitted to the Library of Congress in D.C. for posterity. I got my grandfathers cartoon storyboards ready for donation to the Cartoon Research Library in Columbus, Ohio. We knew my great grandfather was a church muralist and I looked online for any church that still had his art on their walls. There was only one church I found. A Baptist church in Charleston, South Carolina still had the murals and even had a conservator restore them. We made arrangements to go to the church to see them. That very meaningful part of the journey will have its own article in the future.
Donde Esta El Lugar
In someways, this place, which was established in 1949, has a fun nostalgia to it, but it also is a throwback to a Non-PC era. The Non-Hispanic owner went all out in his eccentric way to have a 'Mexican Theme Park.'
Although I also think it's a play on words with the location being south of the NC-SC Border.
Find it Here
The Trip There
We were traveling by car from Virginia to South Carolina with two 3 year olds. About a 10 hour trip. I don’t think we had our DVD player yet, so we kept them amused and distracted as best we could. Lots of Raffi and lots of singing. Lots of crying and occasionally some napping. We must have seen signs about this attraction but I don’t remember them. We were distracted with getting to Charleston as fast as humanly possible. Once we reached the border between North and South Carolina, there appeared to be a giant sombrero in the horizon. It looked weird. As we got closer and closer, it worked it’s magic and I could feel the draw. As we got closer we could see more of the encampment of tourist blitz-out. I remember colors, various buildings, a restaurant, a gift shop which promised the greatest collection of hats in the world. While passing, I told my husband, “We must visit this on our way back!” My husband cringed.I don’t mean to ignore Charleston in this article. We absolutely fell in love with the city in addition to the church. They were having a spring festival with art, music and outdoor festivities. Beautiful city.
The Trip Back
I present to you this picture of a giant 200 foot high tower with a sombrero on the top. Now your life will be complete. You're welcome.
Okay, we start back on our long car drive back to Virginia on Interstate 95. My mother and teacher antennas were up. The greatest collection of (possibly cheap) hats in the WORLD??I can get Mexican sombreros, French berets, sailor hats, Alpine and cowboy hats, Asian style hats. My children could play and pretend with them and maybe I could use them for my future classroom. My kids were too young to get excited until we actually arrived. Once there, we got out the car to extreme eye distractions. It was fun to walk around, our girls enjoyed looking at things and visiting the playground. My husband watched the girls so I could totally focus on hat shopping with no distractions.
The style is meant to be kitschy and over-the-top. But is it just a little offensive? I would especially like to hear from those of you who are Mexican-American
Is it just a little too steeped in stereotype? For example, they use the name Pedro for one of the display characters.
The Gift Shop
There’s an excitement walking into any bright, colorful gift shop. I admit it, I like to think I’m cultured, but as a child, my favorite part of the museums were the gift shops. Yes, there were a lot of hats, not really super cheap, but just a plain-fun and interesting array. Now I started thinking about Halloween. I did not keep to my budget, but I had so much fun buying hats for costumes. After spending too much money, we let the girls pick out something. Then we rested, ate and then went on our way. The hats were used and enjoyed for a few years. Where are they now? They evaporated into the mist of time. But they, as well as the place known as “South of the Border” remain in our memories.