North America: A Cultural Mosaic of the World

Chrissie Alquinta
June 2, 2016

North America is one of the most interesting geographic regions in the world. It doesn't seem that way when we're daydreaming of escaping on a foreign adventure, think an African safari or snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef. But sometimes what you seek truly is right in your very own backyard. You can get a feel for the world's geographic regions and cultures without ever leaving North America.

Physically, North America mirrors almost all of the world's climate regions, with sub-regions ranging from one extreme to the other: with tropical rain forests in Mexico and the Caribbean, to a more mild savanna in the U.S., to arid climates like warm and cool deserts in the Southwest, and finally with subarctic and polar climates in Canada, Alaska, and Greenland.

North America is also a cultural mosaic of the world.  The world's food, culture, language, and practices are reflected throughout the region and coexist with the cultural traditions of early settlers and Native Americans.  Sometimes a blending of sorts takes place and what we get is profoundly unique to the region, such as the Creole language and culture, which reflects pieces of African culture combined with French and Native American customs and heritage. 

Forget your standard NorthSouthEastWest regions you learned in third grade social studies. The Nine Nations of North America divides North America into nine distinct sub-regions that have similar features and qualities. Visit any one of these sub-regions for a taste of world diversity combined with local flavor:

1.  The Foundry consists of New York, Pennsylvania, and the Great Lakes. Take your kids to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island—the two great icons of American freedom and the immigrants that helped form the great cultural mosaic.

2.  MexAmerica includes the Southwestern U.S. and Northern Mexico. The Spanish language, and Mexican and Native American heritage unite this region. Re-live Native American history by visiting the Canyon de Chelly in Arizona or Mesa Verde in Colorado. Explore Mexican influence in San Antonio, Texas.

3.  The Breadbasket consists of much of the Midwest and includes the Prairie provinces of Canada. Visit Fort Scott, the Prairie Outpost in Kansas to see how early settlers lived at what seemed like the end of the earth.

4.  Ecotopia is the Pacific coast from southern Alaska to Santa Barbara, CA. Take a boat ride for beautiful scenery and a piece of Victorian England in the Pacific Northwest. The Seattle-Victoria ferry serves up both and more.

5.  New England consists of what is traditionally known as New England (Connecticut to Maine), as well as the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, and Labrador. Visit Amish Country in Pennsylvania to learn about immigrants who came to the U.S. for religious tolerance.

6.  The Empty Quarter consists of everything north of the breadbasket and west to Ecotopia. Visit Chicago for a taste (literally) of the world's foods -- this city has the world's largest outdoor international food festival.

7.  Dixie is the American Southeast. Check out Savannah, GA if you want to feel Irish for the day.

8.  Quebec is its own sub-region because of its uniqueness in comparison with neighboring sub-regions.  Quebec is a fusion of Amerindian and French culture so anything you visit here with reflect that, but whale watching is world famous here on the St. Lawrence River.

9.  The Islands include southern Florida and the Caribbean islands. To see Spanish architecture and get a feel for life as a Spanish colonist, visit San Juan Fortress in Puerto Rico.

If you're dreaming of escaping to another climate or embarking on a cultural tourism adventure, you don't have to leave the continent. North America has the whole world in its hands!

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