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The Southwestern United States is a region defined in different ways by different sources. Broad definitions include nearly a quarter of the United States, including Californiamarker, Nevadamarker, Arizonamarker, New Mexicomarker, Utahmarker, Coloradomarker, Oklahomamarker, and Texasmarker. Narrowly defined the Southwest might include only portions of Arizona and New Mexico.

Regional Geography

The geographer D. W. Meinig defines the core of the Southwest as the portion of New Mexico west of the Llano Estacadomarker and the portion of Arizona east of the Mohave-Sonoran Desertmarker and south of the "canyonlands", and also including the El Pasomarker district of western Texas and the southernmost part of Colorado. He identidies four distinct subregions with this core.

He calls the first subregion "Northern New Mexico", and describes it as focused on Albuquerquemarker and Santa Femarker. It extends from the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado to south of Socorromarker and including the Manzano Mountains, with an east-west breadth in the north stretching from the upper Canadian River to the upper San Juan River. Important ethnic groups include Hispanos, Anglo-Americans, and the Puebloan peoples. The area around Albuquerque is sometimes called Central New Mexico. During the Spanish era the term Rio Abajo and Rio Arriba were used for the settled areas around Albuquerque and Santa Fe, respectively. During the 19th century Hispano people expanded north into the San Luis Valley west of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and east of the mountains along the Purgatoire River in Colorado. Hispano expansion to the east reached into the Texas Panhandlemarker and, to the west, along the San Juan River and Little Colorado River into Arizona.

"Central Arizona" is vast metropolitan area spread across one contiguous sprawling oasis, essentially equivalent to the Phoenix metropolitan area. The city of Phoenixmarker is the largest urban center, and located in the approximate center of the area, but it is just one of many urban centers, such as Tempemarker, Mesamarker, and many others. None are clearly dominant although the whole can be considered the greater metropolitan area of Phoenix.

Meinig calls the third subregion "El Paso, Tucson, and the Southern Borderlands". While El Pasomarker and Tucsonmarker are distinctly different cities they share a similar and somewhat overlapping hinterland between them. El Paso is about half Hispano and, with Ciudad Juárezmarker, just half of the largest metropolitan area along the Mexico – United States border. Tucsonmarker occupies a large oasis at the western end of the El Paso-Tucson corridor. The region between the two cities is a major transportation trunk with settlements servicing both highway and railway needs. There are also large mining operations, ranches, and agricultural oases. Both El Paso and Tucson have large military installations nearby; Fort Blissmarker and White Sands Missile Rangemarker north of El Paso, and, near Tucson, the Davis-Monthan Air Force Basemarker. About to the southeast are the research facilities at Fort Huachuca. These military installations form a kind of hinterland around the El Paso-Tucson region, and are served by scientific and residential communities such as Sierra Vistamarker, Las Crucesmarker, and Alamogordomarker. El Paso's influence extends north into the Mesilla Valley, and southeast along the Rio Grande into the [Trans-Pecos]] region of Texas. The entire region has a large Hispano population. The Native American Tohono O'odham and Yaqui Native Americans continue to preserve cultural traditions and link Tucson with native lands to the west and south.

The fourth subregion Meinig calls the "Northern Corridor and Navaholands". A major highway and railway trunk connects Albuquerque and Flagstaffmarker. Just north of the transportation trunk are large blocks of Native American land. Once regarded as a bleak wasteland populated by a dying culture, the native cultures, especially the Navajo Nation, have undergone a strong resurgence and is playing an increasingly important role. Other tribes such as the Hopi and Zuni have also experienced a similar resurgence. Several towns and cities serve as contact points between the native peoples and other groups. Notable examples include Farmington, New Mexicomarker, Gallupmarker, Window Rock, Arizonamarker, Flagstaff, Arizonamarker, and, to a lesser degree, Prescott, Arizonamarker. In the Little Colorado River and Mogollon Rim country there is an old and continuing Mormon influence. Many old Mormon settlements have grown rapidly with the arrive of migrants mainly from Texas, the American South, and the Pacific Northwest. Districts around old Mormon villages such as Ramah, New Mexicomarker are often populated by a mix of at least five ethnic groups and culture, such as Mormons, Pueblo Zunis, Navajos, Hispanos, and Texans.

The Phoenix metropolitan area dominates the western half of the Southwest's core region, so much so that it subordinates the subregions around Flagstaff and Tucson. Thus the basic spatial structure of the Southwest can be seen as focused on the three largest metropolitan areas of Phoenix, Albuquerque, and El Paso. This core of the Southwest is directly linked to other regions. The Mojave Desert separates it from Southern California. Several corridors and urban centers in the desert link the two region, most significantly at Las Vegas, Nevadamarker, where the Arizona and California systems interlock. The Mormon Corridor links the Southwest to the main body of Mormon settlements in Utah. Mormons have colonized areas of Arizona and New Mexico since the 19th century, especially in the San Juan Basin near Farmington and along the Mogollon Rim and Little Colorado River in Arizona. Las Vegas also served as a pivotal point of Mormon Corridor between Utah, northern Arizona, and southern California. These areas link the Southwest with the main concentration of Mormon settlements in Utah and eastern Idaho. New Mexico is directly linked with Colorado, with cities such as Durangomarker, Alamosamarker, Walsenburgmarker, and Trinidadmarker having characteristics of both regions. The Southwest is loosely linked with the Midwest in northeast New Mexico, into which the grain farming system of Kansas had been extended. The Southwest-Midwest link via the Santa Fe Trail was historically of enormous importance. The Southwest is linked to Texas in eastern New Mexico, especially along the Pecos River and on the Llano Estacado, where an early mass influx of Texan farmers was later reinforced by the oil industry. Roswell, New Mexicomarker occupies a border position between Albuquerque and the Texan system. Finally, the Southwest is intimately linked to Mexicomarker, most tightly at El Paso and Cuidad Juarez and secondarily at Tucson and Nogales.

History

With the European colonization of the Americans, New Spain, later to become Mexicomarker was dominant until the 19th century. With Manifest Destiny, United States gradually gained control over the west. Pro-Confederate Texas and Pro-Union Utah were important at this point, although California rapidly became the main western power. Utahns moved west into Nevada and Northern California, whereas Texans moved into New Mexico and Arizona. Parts of New Mexico and Arizona were briefly a Confederate territory, then were transformed into a Union territory, then Union state. Arizona's original government and military were similar to those Texasmarker at the time had. Arizona, in the form of the Gadsden Purchase also has connections to the Republic of Sonora. See California in the American Civil War for elements of Southern origin in that state.

Vegetation

Southwestern like vegetation that thrives in dry conditions such as the Spanish Dagger, Prickly Pear Cactus, Barrel Cactus, Desert Spoon, Creosote Bush, Texas Live Oak Tree, Honey Mesquite Tree, and Ashe Juniper can be seen growing beginning roughly around the far west side of Fort Worthmarker, 10 miles east of downtown Austinmarker, and 55 miles east of downtown San Antoniomarker. South Texas, while flat and of low elevation, also exhibits characteristics of the Southwest with large amounts of brush, Prickly Pear Cactus, and bare topsoil. All of the above features are not found to be native to or existing in signifcant amounts to the more eastern parts of Texas which includes, for example, , , , , and . Some sources, however, put this boundary line much further west (for example at the beginning of the ) and classify most of Texas and Oklahoma as a "southwestern" sub-region of the American South; thus distinguishing them from the other states commonly considered Southwestern. Regardless, there are still signifcant similarities between Central, South, and West Texas and the rest of the established Southwest.

Ethnicity

The Southwest is ethnically varied, with significant European American and Hispanic American populations in addition to more regional African American, Asian American, and American Indian populations.

Cities and urban areas

The area also contains many of the nations largest cities and metropolitan areas, despite relatively low population density in rural areas. Houstonmarker, Dallasmarker, Phoenixmarker and San Antoniomarker are among the top ten most populous cities and metro areas in the country. Many of the states in this region, such as Arizonamarker, Nevadamarker, New Mexicomarker and Texasmarker have witnessed some of the highest population growth in the United States. Urban areas in this region, like Albuquerquemarker, Austinmarker, Las Vegasmarker, Phoenixmarker, Tucsonmarker and El Pasomarker are some of the fastest-growing cities in the country.

References

  1. Southwest, pp. 3-8
  2. Southwest, pp. 95-101
  3. Southwest, pp. 28-29
  4. Southwest, pp. 103-106
  5. Southwest, pp. 112-114
  6. Southwest, pp. 114-119
  7. Southwest, pp. 123-136
  8. Gastil,Raymond "Cultural Regions of the United States" University of Washington Press, pp.199-204
  9. 50 most populous cities in the U.S., Infoplease.com


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