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Rewards and sacrifices such actions can cause

Rewards and sacrifices such actions can cause

Houston doesn't often get mentioned alongside the great American cities, but the Houston Ship Channel suggests it should. Its story is the quintessential American epic of work and family, of immigrants and businessmen, of wealth and poverty, a tale of ingenuity, of great ideas and questionable ones. Who builds a city in a swamp? Who decides that an urban center 50 miles inland can be a port? The story is one of bending nature, of building infrastructure, of creating worlds, with all the rewards and sacrifices such actions can cause.

Monday marks the 100th anniversary of the Houston Ship Channel's opening. Politicians and Port of Houston dignitaries will rededicate it in a ceremony.

On a broader scale, the channel represents the city. A confluence of cultures came together to create and maintain it. Its people have passed along jobs and wisdom through generations. More than a million Houstonians in thousands of trades contribute to the system that nurtures the city.

"Occupational communities are important communities," said Pat Jasper, director of folklife and traditional arts for the Houston Arts Alliance, which received a grant to document the port workforce by the Library of Congress. "We train ourselves to think people just go to jobs, but occupational communities are different. It's a community of people who have a wide range of shared understandings that most people in this city know nothing about."

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