In the Arms of Saguaros

In the Arms of Saguaros: Iconography of the Giant Cactus

William L. Bird Jr.

In this carefully and thoroughly researched and curated contribution, William L. Bird helps us piece together and understand a key element of Southwestern identity, how the saguaro became a global icon. It is a story of discovery, cultural appropriation and erasure—including actions of the Desert Botanical Laboratory, marketing, economics, and a sense of wonder—and, ultimately as Larry shows us, one of connection. Each of these elements has positioned the saguaro for its current moment, a relatable symbol of the arid west. Tucked throughout these pages are facets of history, especially of a slew of twentieth-century Tucson characters, that figure prominently into the shaping of the identities of not just Tucson and Phoenix, but in many ways the arid Southwest as a whole. This work fills an important gap and helps link what are at times disparate pieces in the shaping of an arid land identity that has reverberated across the globe. This iconography continues to evolve, in step with our relationship to the giant cactus and the ways that connection is told.