Imagining the West
Three countries‚—Mexico, Canada, and the United States‚—make up the continent of North America. The piece below, an excerpt from an article written by writer Richard Rodriguez in a 1996 issue of Harper's Magazine, emphasizes how each country has a different relationship to its space.
In the 1950’s, California was filling with westering Americans who were confident they had arrived. My parents were from Mexico. My father described California, always, as ''el norte.'' . . . To have grown up with a father who spoke of California as the North, a Chicago-accented neighbor who spoke of California as the West, to have grown up thinking of the West as lying east of [Los Angeles], is already to have noticed that the ''West'' is imaginary.
American myth has traditionally been written east to west, describing an elect people’s manifest destiny accruing from Constitution Hall to St. Jo' to the Brown Palace to the Golden Gate. A classics professor in Oregon rebuts my assertion that California is not the West. His family moved from Queens to Anaheim in the Fifties. They moved WEST. Simple. The way the East Coast has always imagined its point of view settled the nation. . . .
Mexico and Canada, so different from each other, are similarly north/south countries‚—neither has a myth of the West. In Canada, the North represents continuity, the unchanging character of the nation. Canadians, in autumn, still speak of the approaching North, relishing in that phrase the renewal of isolation. Whereas the Canadian South is little distinct from the United States. Mexico is the same in reverse: in Mexico, the great stone civilizations weighed upon the South. The North was a province of nomads and revolutionaries, and later, American confluence.
Coming upon the continent from the Atlantic, English Protestants imagined the land as prehistoric; themselves cast onto Eden. The Indian they named Savage rather than Innocent. . . .
Source: Rodriguez, Richard. ''True West: Relocating the Horizon of the American Frontier.'' Harper's Magazine. September, 1996.
1. Why does Rodriguez call the ‘West’ “imaginary?”
2. How might maps of North America reflect some of the different perspectives that