The Risk of Utopia by Leean Lewis-Ramirez's

Though utopias are often perceived as the perfect, imaginary place, what truly defines utopia is the hope that is offered by the possibility of obtaining something better within a society. Thomas More first coined the word in Utopia, in which described his version of a perfect community that would then foster a perfect people. Perfection, however, can never truly be achieved, and as utopias began to expand past the literary boundaries into practical application, the element of perfection become lost for as Sargent explains, “Utopians are always faced with dilemma when they attempt to move their dream to reality - is their dream compatible with the imposition of their dream” (Sargent, introduction). This unattainable perfection is not a reason to disregard utopias, however. Whether they reach their ideals or not, the hope that utopias engender for the time is what pushes towards change. It is only a matter of what a group of people are willing to risk for the sake of their utopian ideal.

The Pacific Colony that settled in Topolobampo Bay is one such utopia that, upon its practical application of co-operation as a utopian ideal, faced the challenges that came with entering into a realm of risk. Those who were willing to participate in Albert K. Owen’s plan for Pacific Colony were, as Bacconlini might refer to as, “proponents of Utopia” that become the “hopeful types who are sometimes willing to take great risks to make life better for all. They are, perhaps, too optimistic for their, and, sometimes, our, own good” (Bacconlini 302).

In the following exhibit, I will present items from the University of California, Fresno’s Henry Madden Special Collections on Topolobampo to illustrate the risk that colonists had to take in order to live within their utopia. Through disillusioned plans of a railroad, the discord within different companies, the lack of provisions, criticism from outsiders, and a general disagreement between colony members themselves, Pacific Colony remained hopeful until its last day. Utopias offer hope for progress, but in doing so they offer themselves up to the risk comes with it.