A couple months ago I wrote a blog post called Changes in the Deep South. Now my dad asked me to write a second one. For my second America Is… project I have decided to write about how America is diverse and how this makes America what it is today. On our trip we have seen many different types of people, cultures, and religions in the states we have visited and the effect they have on an area. Some of the most noticeable were the Mexican influence in the southwest, the French influence in New Orleans, and the Chinese influence in California.
When we were visiting Texas, the Southwest, and Southern California we saw a lot of Mexican influence in the food, people, and culture. Many of these states used to be part of Mexico.In 1836 Texas seceded from Mexico and became a republic and later its own state in 1846. Then in 1848 California, most of Arizona, about half of New Mexico, as well as other states became territories of the United States. Today many people in these places speak Spanish, especially in the more southern parts. Another Mexican influence on these areas is the architecture. Many of the buildings in New Mexico, Arizona, and Southern California are adobe buildings and houses. When we were visiting in Santa Fe almost every building was built out of adobe and in southern California there are many Spanish Mission style houses. Art and music are also influenced by Mexican culture. In many of these places we had radio stations in Spanish. In San Antonio, we visited a museum and saw the work of Mexican-American artists. One giant difference that is everywhere in the Southwest is Mexican food, such as tacos, quesadilla, sopapilla, green chillies, and my favorite, fajitas. Overall much of the Southwest is influenced by Mexico still today.
Another culture that influenced America is the French. New Orleans used to be part of France until 1803 when it was bought by President Thomas Jefferson. Besides the French there were also many Cajun people in New Orleans. The Cajuns were French speakers from what is now parts of Nova Scotia, Eastern Quebec, and Maine. Now there is a large French influence on the traditions, food, and many other aspects of life in New Orleans. When we were there Mardi Gras was only a few days away. Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) is one of the biggest celebrations in New Orleans, one that was originally French. The food of New Orleans was influenced by the French and Cajun cultures for example we had French beignets and Cajun jambalaya. While we were in the city we went to look at the French quarter were we saw many houses and buildings that had a French style of architecture like wrought iron balcony rails. This combination of cultures creates one of the most unique cities in America.
When we were in California we saw how people coming from China have influenced the state now but also in the past. During the time of the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882-1943) very few Asians came to America. Today, people coming from China and other Asian countries make up some of the largest groups of immigrants to America. In California we saw the influence that Asian cultures have had on this region. In San Francisco we went into Chinatown. While we were there we went to a museum about how the Chinese helped to shape America and especially California. It showed how expansion of America was made possible by the Chinese laborers who built the railroads and then when gold was discovered in California ran undesirable businesses like laundries, restaurants and did manual labor. Even outside of China Town there were many Chinese food places and many Asian people in general. While we were in these Chinese parts of town it was fun to see food and gifts that we saw from China here in America. Overall I think that the Chinese have helped to shape how America has advanced by creating the railroads and influencing California.
These are some of the ways that our country is culturally diverse and how this diversity affects certain regions today. In America there are many other ethnic groups such as the Irish and Italians in New England, the Mormons in Utah, African-Americans in the Southeast and northern cities, and Scandinavians in the northern plain states. Overall I think that this cultural diversity is a big part in America being what it is today: a free, prosperous, industrious, and technologically advanced country with many opportunities for everyone in it.