On July 18th the city of Detroit in Michigan filed for bankruptcy. The city has estimated debts of $20 billion and this is the biggest municipal bankruptcy in American history. In many ways the situation is surprising. It is true that Detroit has had many problems in recent years but, according to an article that appeared in the Financial Times in June, downtown Detroit is having a revival.
Detroit is certainly an interesting place and it has a number of original tourist attractions. The city’s nickname is “Motown,” which is an abbreviation of “Motor Town.” It is the home of Ford, Chrysler and General Motors. It is the capital of the American automobile industry. And when a young African American called Berry Gordy decided to found a record company in 1959, he called it “Motown.” Motown was the home of Diana Ross and the Supremes, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, the Jackson Five and Stevie Wonder. Gordy later moved his company to Los Angeles, but you can still visit the original Motown building in Detroit.
These days Detroit is a poor city with many abandoned buildings, but in the glory days of the automobile industry it was a very rich place. This is evident in the Detroit Institute of Arts, or DIA. Here you can find work by Degas and Cezanne but the most spectacular piece is the massive mural, “Detroit Industry,” by the Mexican artist Diego Rivera. Detroit also has some great architecture from the automobile era. Unfortunately, Michigan Central Station is one of the city’s many abandoned buildings, but the Fisher Building is a busy place, with cafes, shops, restaurants and a theatre.
Cars and Dogs
Cars are still a big part of life in Detroit. One of the city’s biggest events is the Woodward Dream Cruise in August. Time magazine calls it a “celebration of the automobile, with parades, music and food.” Many tourists are worried about visiting Detroit because it is considered a dangerous place, but the real problem is dogs rather than crime. There are an estimated 50,000 stray dogs in the city. Many belonged to residents who left, while others belonged to people who lost their jobs and can’t afford to keep them. Not only that, these dogs often hunt in packs, attacking people, and they sleep in those abandoned buildings.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you!