Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Defining America: Seeking out Southwesterners

There's something special about the Southwest. Maybe it's the spectacular vistas that rise over a sometimes-Martian desert landscape, or the inescapable oppression of summer's "dry heat" (something residents take great pride in). Or maybe it's the vibrancy of the U.S.-Mexico border and the undeniable Native American influence, folding its inhabitants into a cultural melting pot that boils and bubbles.

 

Either way, it's a place unlike any other in the country, and we're hoping the Defining America cultural census project will help expose some of the quirky qualities that make this region so unique. That's the goal of the five assignments we've put together, which each seek to find out a little something about the people who live in the United States. iReporters' submissions will become part of an interactive map of the country that will incorporate this data.

 

Some of the portrait responses we've already received will give you a small hint about what kind of place the Southwest really is, but it's up to you to tell us more. If you're from these states -- New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona and California -- or you know someone who is, we'd like to hear from you! We've got three iReports from New Mexico, four from Nevada and eight from Utah; these states in particular need more participants.

 

 

The responses we've already received from the Southwest are telling. Despite the region's reputation for being a bastion of transplants and seasonal residents, Anjanette Sanchez of Mesa, Arizona, describes herself as a "fifth-generation Arizonan." She grew up in Globe, a small copper-mining town, and says "time seems to stand still" there.

 

"I identify with being Chicana but I am also a proud American," Sanchez says. " I love my great state of Arizona, but I have been fortunate to have traveled the world."

 

The mountainous urban paradise of Denver, Colorado, is another kind of cultural mix. Russell A. Dale lives in nearby Aurora and says he appreciates the local events and amenities, as well as the variety of people that live there.

 

"The people are friendly and very diverse.  There is a unique history all its own here, the story of the West, the story of people coming in search for gold, in search for a better life. People work hard here. They work hard and live."

 

And finally, yes, there's an alien on the third iReporter's head. Kevin Phillips of Ivins, Utah, shared a portrait of himself and explained that his tiny town on the outskirts of St. George doesn't feel quite as diverse, population-wise, as where he grew up. Still, the mountainous setting is far different than his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. "We have access to several national and state parks and are located roughly 120 miles from Las Vegas, Nevada. Ivins has that home town feel where everyone knows each other and are more than willing to help each other out."

 

Indeed, the thread among many stories from the Southwest could be all the people who've settled in this place, perhaps the last frontier in America, to search for a better life. Entering the 21st century, the myth of the Old West still endures in our minds, but does it matter in reality? Maybe that's a question we can answer with the cultural census.

 

Share your own portrait, and include some of the local scenery so we can learn something about you and the place where you live. How does it influence you? Keep this thought in mind and check out all five of the assignments, below. Be sure to complete the brief survey to help us thread your story into the big picture of this project.

 

Share a photo
Take a self-portrait. Get creative!

 

Read aloud
Tape yourself reading a standard passage.

 

Eat dinner
Show us a photo of you or your family's typical weeknight dinner.

 

Write this down
Scan or snap a photo of your handwriting.

 

Get around
Show us how you generally get around town.

19 Comments
May 25, 2011
Click to view abcdef54321's profile

The regional cultures of America are history. They only exist in Chamber of Commerce brochures and old movies.

May 25, 2011
Click to view nsaidi's profile

@abcdef54321 I can certainly see what you're talking about in certain places, but I have seen pockets of culture, too. Do you have any examples? Have you visited the many quirky parts of New York or the colorful neighborhoods of the Southwest? Would love to hear more from you. :)

May 25, 2011
Click to view abcdef54321's profile

I've lived in the Southwest all my life. I'm 64. The old El Paso National Bank is now Wells Fargo. The White House and Popular department stores have been replaced by Sears and Target. The only time you see a western hat or cowboy boots is in a gay night club. Real cowboys wear running shoes and drive 4-wheel ATVs on the range. Texas Western College is now a branch campus of the University of Texas.

 

Going over to Juarez on Saturday for shopping and lunch was common when I was young. Now I would not try it without a bullet-proof vest and an armored car.

 

We still have plenty of family owned Mexican restaurants, which is the only part of the El Paso of 1960 that is still with us.

May 25, 2011
Click to view crawley's profile

I agree to a certain extent with abcdef54321. I live in Albuquerque, and for the most part, everything has become corporate (Target, Walmart, etc).  However, there is still great tradition throughout the city, and especially in the more rural parts of the state.  You can still find incredible food, art, shops, stores, and people. 

 

I think that one of the best parts of living in the Southwest is the beautiful undeveloped areas outside of the towns and cities.  The outdoors here is incredible and we shouldn't judge a place solely by the types of businesses in the cities.  

May 25, 2011
Click to view nsaidi's profile

Ah, thanks abc and crawley. Appreciate your thoughtful comments. There definitely is a strange conflict between the built and natural environments out there. And the outdoors is lovely.

May 25, 2011
Click to view azstumbler's profile

so when did California become a southwestern state?

May 25, 2011
Click to view NPhxAz's profile

I am hopeful that this regional presentation of Southwesterners will spare everyone the usual politically motivated commentary and condemnations from CNN regarding our city/state.  Our Sonoran Desert is one of the most enchanting places on earth and my town is an enviable world class city, with all the trimmings. Expansive, modern and well maintained. There is a deep pride among many of us- especially those of us who have helped build it over the past few decades. I hope CNN is capable (actually willing) to showcase our best to America.

May 25, 2011
Click to view nondicta's profile

Not including Texas as being in the Southwest but adding California is media bias at its best.

May 25, 2011
Click to view SuperCobra's profile

Chicana looks nice...

May 26, 2011
Click to view SouthArizona's profile

Arizona being the finest and most diverse, in all the ways possible.  We are so spoiled. Get away from the cities and mother nature still rules supreme.

May 26, 2011
Click to view DizzyDi's profile

Yuma, the winter lettuce capital of the world!  Yes, it's blazing hot in the summer, but you can't be the beautiful sunny days of winter, with warm temps, friendly people and a multitude of things to do.  If you get bored you can drive 3-4 hours and be in mountains, the beach or Vegas!  I wouldn't trade it for the world!  And yes, parts of California are in the southwest - California doesn't consist of only L.A.!

May 26, 2011
Click to view DavidPacheco's profile

HELP ME CNN !

I CHALLENGE THE ENTIRE WORLD SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY ! MAINLY TO PHYSICAL THEORETICAL SUBMITTED TO THE SERIES "THE UNIVERSE" THE HISTORY CHANNEL AND THE BRITISH PHYSICAL PRESENTED TO THE SERIES "THE ATOM" BY BBC. THE CHALLENGE IS LAUNCHED !

LINKS: www.youtube.com/pacheloco1

AND: www.scribd.com/puridian

May 26, 2011
Click to view DavidPacheco's profile

HELP ME CNN !

I CHALLENGE THE ENTIRE WORLD SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY ! MAINLY TO PHYSICAL THEORETICAL SUBMITTED TO THE SERIES "THE UNIVERSE" THE HISTORY CHANNEL AND THE BRITISH PHYSICAL PRESENTED TO THE SERIES "THE ATOM" BY BBC. THE CHALLENGE IS LAUNCHED !

LINKS: www.youtube.com/pacheloco1

AND: www.scribd.com/puridian

May 26, 2011
Click to view DavidPacheco's profile

HELP ME CNN !

I CHALLENGE THE ENTIRE WORLD SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY ! MAINLY TO PHYSICAL THEORETICAL SUBMITTED TO THE SERIES "THE UNIVERSE" THE HISTORY CHANNEL AND THE BRITISH PHYSICAL PRESENTED TO THE SERIES "THE ATOM" BY BBC. THE CHALLENGE IS LAUNCHED !

LINKS: www.youtube.com/pacheloco1

AND: www.scribd.com/puridian

May 26, 2011
Click to view DavidPacheco's profile

HELP ME CNN !

I CHALLENGE THE ENTIRE WORLD SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY ! MAINLY TO PHYSICAL THEORETICAL SUBMITTED TO THE SERIES "THE UNIVERSE" THE HISTORY CHANNEL AND THE BRITISH PHYSICAL PRESENTED TO THE SERIES "THE ATOM" BY BBC. THE CHALLENGE IS LAUNCHED !

LINKS: www.youtube.com/pacheloco1

AND: www.scribd.com/puridian

May 26, 2011
Click to view DavidPacheco's profile

HELP ME CNN !

I CHALLENGE THE ENTIRE WORLD SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY ! MAINLY TO PHYSICAL THEORETICAL SUBMITTED TO THE SERIES "THE UNIVERSE" THE HISTORY CHANNEL AND THE BRITISH PHYSICAL PRESENTED TO THE SERIES "THE ATOM" BY BBC. THE CHALLENGE IS LAUNCHED !

LINKS: www.youtube.com/pacheloco1

AND: www.scribd.com/puridian

June 11, 2011
Click to view AusTexan's profile

So why wasn't Texas included in this? West Texas has mountains and open desert for miles and miles.

September 19, 2011
Click to view brinny's profile

Wells Fargo just called a bond not due til2013 & suppose to offer preferred stock! They got bailed out again by us to waive their 9.75% dividend.  Why this new law passed in their favor, and not put in effect a law for we the people trying to make a living.  Over the summer this new law was passed with no press or coverage!   Why no coverage ?

This means all notes and bonds can b called as long as they have the money for all bonds held.  Our government is giving banks the money for zero interest

Get some coverage on this! Thanks b

March 10, 2012
Click to view Theliac's profile

I watch HLN first thing every morning and love the show, but I would like to know why does Natasha Curry constantly refer to the President as Mr. Obama rather than President Obama? That is just disrespectful.

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