By Cate Malek, University of Colorado
You have entered Maren, an isolated region located on the East Coast of the moderately prosperous, democratic country of Perades. Perades has struggled economically until recently, when a technology boom finally jumpstarted the country's economy. The country is still nowhere near as rich as the United States, but it is doing reasonably well. Its economy is similar to a European country like Ireland. However, the region of Maren has yet to see the effects of the recent economic boom. Maren is nestled between a mountain range and the ocean in a startlingly beautiful area. The region is isolated both geographically and culturally. The main industries in Maren are agriculture and fishing, neither of which is extremely successful. The rest of the country views the people living in Maren as somewhat backwards. This is partly because of their poverty and partly because of a series of long-running conflicts that have plagued the region for decades. The citizens of Maren divide themselves into four major groups: immigrants, Marenese, Mendozans and Westerners. The main town in Maren is called Blue River. Most of the residents of the town are Marenese, Mendozans, and immigrants. The Westerners tend to stay on the outskirts of town, in their own communities.
Because of its location on the coast, Maren is the first stop for an increasing number of immigrants fleeing an impoverished county to the east of Perades known as Trinereo. Trinereo is ruled by a dictator and has a long history of poverty and human rights abuses. The immigrants are desperately poor and see no way to move up. They cannot afford an education and the only opportunity available to them is back-breaking agricultural work. To make matters worse, the combination of a decade-long drought together with misuse of the land has led to a cycle of desertification in their country. Now, even agricultural jobs are scarce. The immigrants come by the boatload to Maren. The journey is dangerous and many die along the way.
Perades has tight immigration quotas, so most of the immigrants from Trinereo come illegally. Once they make it to Maren, there are people who set them up with lodging, work and forged documents. However, these people often exploit the immigrants, charging them too much money and not delivering what they have promised. Once the immigrants have secured jobs, they work incredibly hard. Many of them work 60 to 80 hours a week doing menial labor. They send their money back home to wives and children and most of them plan to return home once they have enough saved to buy a house or start a business. Few of the immigrants speak Peradean, which makes things even more difficult. For the most part, the immigrants keep to themselves and try to stay out of trouble until it is time for them to go home. However, some of the immigrants feel resentful of the comparatively leisurely lives the residents of Maren lead.
This group refers to themselves as the Marenese because they have lived in Maren longer than anyone else. However, originally they were not even from Perades. Most of the Marenese are former immigrants from Trinereo who have been living in Maren for generations. They have a very distinctive culture, a combination of the customs from Trinereo with some Peradean customs and some of their own touches. The Marenese stand out from the rest of Peradean society because, like most of the immigrants from Trinereo, they are shorter and stouter than the Peradeans, who are taller and more slender. Their difference in appearance has led to years of prejudice and made it hard for the Marenese to get jobs. They mostly work in agriculture, but the land in Maren isn't great and over the years, the area has fallen into a cycle of poverty.
Difficult as life is in Maren, the Marenese are proud of their culture and their region. They have a strong sense of community and people come from all over the country to buy their art and attend their festivals.
The Marenese are sympathetic to the new Trinerean immigrants, but they are also frustrated because these immigrants will work long hours for low wages and they are driving the Marenese out of their jobs. The Marenese may be poor, but they are unwilling to lower their standard of living to that of the Trinerean immigrants who spend their whole lives at work, earning very little money by Peradean standards.
The Mendozans have lived in Maren for almost as long as the Marenese and are just as poor. However, they are native Peradeans and have the tall, slender body type, which separates them from the short, stocky Marenese. The Mendozans came to Maren in search of opportunity in the fishing industry. In fact, Mendozan is the word for fisherman in Peradean. Unfortunately, fishing wasn't as profitable as they had hoped. Many of the Mendozans left, but some fell in love with the region and have stayed, despite the economic difficulty.
The Mendozans are proud of their culture and of their land. However, they are intensely prejudiced against both the Marenese and the Trinerean immigrants whom they view as inferior to native Peradeans. They are anti-immigration and they have set up several border control groups, the largest of which is called the Vigilantes. The Mendozans are very loyal to the nation of Perades and its culture. Unfortunately, many of the Peradeans view the Mendozans as ignorant and uneducated.
Recently, a new wave of Peradeans has been moving to Maren. This group is largely made up of artists who are attracted to Maren's culture and natural beauty. There are also a number of tech companies relocating to Maren to take advantage of the cheap land. New restaurants and businesses have sprung up to accommodate the Westerners. The Westerners are giving Maren's economy a needed boost, however neither the Marenese nor the Mendozans feel they are benefiting from it. The Westerners tend to either hire immigrants because they work for incredibly low wages, or fellow Westerners who are better educated than the residents of Maren.
The Marenese are especially hostile to the Westerners because they believe the Westerners are destroying the Marenese culture. For centuries, the Marenese say they have had a tradition of taking a long lunch break in the middle of the day. The tradition reflects their values of spending time with friends and family. However, the Westerners ignore this tradition and they're beginning to put the Marenese out of business.
The Westerners don't realize the effect they're having on the area. In fact, one of the reasons they moved to Maren is because they enjoy the slower pace of life. They call it "Maren time" and they respect the locals' ability to relax and enjoy the moment. Still, they don't quite understand the locals' stubborn adherence to the long lunch break. The Westerners are largely college-educated and view themselves as open-minded. While their parents may be prejudiced towards the Marenese, the Westerners feel they are more tolerant. Still, it seems to them that the Marenese and the Mendozans could do more to break the cycle of poverty in the area and ending the long lunch break would be one of the first steps.
The Westerners are largely segregated from the other residents of Maren. They live in richer neighborhoods and their children attend private schools because Maren's public schools are in bad shape. They know the Marenese and the Mendozans have some hostility towards them, but they're not really sure why and they don't have enough contact with them to ask. Although they hire the immigrants in droves, the Westerners don't think much about the immigrants and consider them part of the woodwork.
Despite the rising hostility and frustration, these four groups have been living in relative peace for the last few years. Mostly, they try to avoid each other and get on with their lives. But a series of recent incidents suggests that this strategy isn't working anymore. First was a series of three rapes. The police believe that the perpetrators were immigrants, but the suspects have disappeared back to Trinereo without a trace. Two of the victims were Westerners and one was a Mendozan. Although not many details have been released about the attacks, it is known that they were fairly brutal and that two of the women are still in the hospital recovering from their injuries.
The second incident was a tech firm that was vandalized in the middle of the night. All the windows were smashed and thousands of dollars of equipment was destroyed, but nothing was stolen. Derogatory phrases were spray-painted on the walls. The damage forced the firm to close for a few weeks until the building could be cleaned up and the equipment repaired or replaced. The vandalism has made the tech workers extremely nervous and many people have since quit the firm and moved back West.
Third, some of the local high school kids, both Marenese and Mendozan, have been harassing the Western kids when they come into town. With news getting around of the threats, most Westerners are starting to avoid the town center.
Finally, two members of the Mendozan group, the Vigilantes, pistol-whipped an immigrant they caught swimming to shore from an illegal boat. The man was badly injured. The Vigilantes have refused to apologize for the incident and have threatened more violence against the immigrants.
Many of Maren's residents are concerned about the recent violence. But they're not sure what to do about it. All they know for sure is that the quality of life in Maren is decreasing.
Click on the character you wish to "be."
Mike Green: Mike is Marenese and the mayor of Blue River. He is determined to end the violence in Maren and facilitate more understanding between the different community groups in Blue River.
Susana Hayek: Susana works for the Trinerean Church, putting together social projects such as a community garden and an affordable housing program. She hopes that providing for the basic needs of the community will help end the violence.
William Luchard: William is a university professor living in Blue River. His heritage is half Marenese, half Mendozan, but he identifies with his Marenese relatives. He has recently become involved with an armed organization dedicated to fighting for independence for Maren.
Stephen Pelle: Stephen is from a huge Mendozan family and is one of the best policemen in Blue River. He has been charged with investigating the Vigilantes, a violent anti-immigration group. He suspects that many of his family members are involved with the Vigilantes and that his new task will force him to betray his family.
Emma Thornton: Emma is a Westerner teaching at Blue River High School, a public school in town with a bad reputation. She is trying to use a soccer league to build bridges between the rich Westerners and the poor locals.