Regional Cultures in the USA (1/5): One Country, 11 “Nations,” 50 States


Have you never experienced El Norte, the Midlands or Tidewater in connection with the USA? Then welcome to this blog series!

In a total of five segments, you will discover that (as in every country) there are not just “the Americans,” and that today’s states harbor a variety of regional cultures. Discover more about the roots of this great country, and the effects that the history of its founding has had on American society and economy right up to the present. Myths will be examined, and apparent paradoxes in the country made clearer. I look forward to sharing my perspectives with you, based on more than 10 years of living and working in the USA.

What is wrong with the following statements about the founding of the USA, with which many Americans and foreigners are very familiar:
- First the English established colonies
- Then the Revolution was fought against the English crown
- The successful War of Independence followed
- Subsequently, a constitutional democracy was established, based on a visionary constitution.

Well, the answer is fairly easy: This is only one of several different founding histories of the USA, because, in addition to the British, other colonial powers also went to America, especially Spain, France and the Netherlands.

It is these regional and cultural differences and conflicts of interest which have characterized American society since the 17th century – even if many Americans are not aware of this fact. Outsiders, too, can benefit from a look at these dynamics, which, in many cases, explain why so much of what doesn’t seem to fit into the image of America really is part of the fabric of the culture.


Anglocentrism – The 13 Colonies

Bild1 Artikel1 Something similar to this is shown on a typical map in a history book describing the situation of the colonies in the 17th century: British colonies as one homogeneous block along the East Coast – and the rest of the country as … not much of anything, or completely empty.

What is missing on that map are central cultural and political dynamics, such as those which developed through the relationships to the Native American populations and the conflict-laden differences between British and other colonial cultures. The result was the development of various regional cultures, which still today characterize the 50 states of the USA (see Colin Woodard, "American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures in North America”).


So, let’s have a look at some less known maps, to augment our perspective: We’ll start with the region significantly shaped by Spanish colonists: El Norte.


El Norte

El Norte jpg Spain proved to be strong competition for France and England in North America: It was the first colonial power, and, as New Spain, controlled about one-fourth of what is now known as the USA (California, Nevada, Colorado, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Florida). Among their cultural influences were the Spanish language, Catholic missionaries converting the Native American population (including the use of violence and slavery) and hierarchical clientele systems. Added to these is a lack of attention paid to the “North” in favor of the colonial administration in Mexico (City), oriented toward exploiting the richer, Mexican “South.” The population in the Northern Territories learned to rely more on their own strengths and resources. Even after the USA had annexed this population along with the Mexican Territories in the 19th century, this more independent northern Mexican culture (thus the name “El Norte”), oriented toward hard work, prevailed on both sides of the new Mexican-American border, even though it is repressed within the dominant Anglo-American culture.



Political consequences have survived: Until as late as the 1970s, for instance, politicians in New Mexico seen as “patrons” – according to the cultural logic of the clientele system – could achieve 100% of the votes in their electoral districts for certain national candidates. On the other hand, during the presidential campaign of George Bush Jr., the Catholic Latino population in Colorado was oriented toward the papal recommendation largely against the war – and thus voted against Bush Jr.

It is easy to forget just how deep these cultural roots are: In southern Colorado, for example, there are villages in which Spanish has been the language of use for more than 300 years. These people are not new immigrants who still need to learn English, but deeply rooted families!

A strengthening of the cultural consciousness within the El Norte culture today and the growing portion of immigrated Latinos eligible to vote represent a challenge for the Anglo-centered political landscape in the USA – also manifest in the form of escalating regional tensions within and between the states today, which are also carried out on the national level.

What currents flowed in from the roots of New France, New Amsterdam and the various British colonial cultures? Find out next week in Part 2. 

In the following weeks our Director of Business Development USA and author, Sabine Amend, will take you on a journey through the history of the United States. 

Regional Cultures in the USA (2/5): British Coloni...
"Emotional intelligence for mutual understanding" ...


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Tuesday, 19 June 2018

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