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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Misguided Geography Ignores Ancestry of Continent's Oldest Inhabitants


Recently, we came across a 1998 Newsweek copyrighted map that refers to the United States and Canada as "Anglo America" and all points south as "Latin America and the Caribbean." On this world migration map, as one person noted, North America is the only continent that has demographics mixed with geography.

Representatives from the Newsweek Educational Program said that the map is used in high schools nationwide, but as of yet those designations have not been explained.

Curious, we asked people on our mailing list for their thoughts. Hundreds responded. Georgia Roybal of Northern New Mexico sums them up best: "Mapmakers, wake up and smell the tortillas and the fry bread!"

Neither "Anglo" nor "Latin" America was acceptable for many. For instance, Susan Carreon of Salt Lake City stated: "The message that this designation will send to impressionable young minds is that the Americas are divided by two European camps." Nancy Torres of Portland, Ore., said: "Both Anglo and Latin negate the existence of the original inhabitants of this continent by continuing to propagate European domination through land division and name designations."

Most respondents were appalled that the continent's indigenous roots were being negated. For example, Matthew J. Martinez of San Juan Pueblo, N.M., stated: "Historically, socially and politically, indigenous peoples have continuously been victims of a map that is, the cartography of mapping places and names as seen justified through Anglo lenses." Geographer Deborah Santana of Mills College in Oakland, Calif., added: "I think it's time that English-speaking geographers and their colleagues learned a little about history and geography. It certainly didn't begin with them, nor does the European invasion of America denote the beginning of time."

"It is equally stupid to attach the Latin label to the mestizo population of Mexico. Countries like Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Guatemala have preponderant indigenous majority populations who have no idea where the Mediterranean is located," stated Vicente Ximenes of New Mexico.

Professor Sara E. Cooper, Chico, Calif.: "Students should be taught to understand and respect the enormous diversity that has characterized our country since its inception . . . rather than to simplify and overgeneralize a definition of nation or culture." Jose Balderrama, also from Chico, retorted: "This country is 'these United States of America,' not 'these United States of Anglo America.' " Karen Lincoln Michel, co-owner of News from Indian Country and a past president of the Native American Journalists Association, added: "To call the United States 'Anglo America' is arrogant, inaccurate, ridiculous and an affront to the rich cultural diversity of the nation."

Virginia Harris, Santa Rosa, Calif.: "This is one more way to pretend that the U.S.A is not only all white, i.e. Anglo, but North America is all U.S.A."

Many were horrified at the map's educational design: Carrie Medina de Espina, Portland, Ore., wrote: "If I were to walk into my child's classroom and see such an overt racist theology hanging on the classroom wall, I would be compelled to remove it and permanently destroy this hate-teaching tool."

From Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio professor Linda Payne-Button said: "I reject and am horrified that my daughter and all children of color could potentially be exposed to this map." Councilman Steven Vargas, City of Brea, Calif., added: "The map should be returned to the back shelf from whence it came so that no one in this generation is led astray from its misguided geography." Carol Young of Kansas State University was miffed: "I'm puzzled about this mixture of geographic and demographic terminology," suggesting it would do "immense damage" to the field of geography and to students.

Chriselda Pacheco of San Antonio, commenting on the "pilgrim map," characterized it as: "Manifest Destiny and re-colonialization in the new millennium annihilating us once again." Steve Valdivia of Albuquerque simply called it "another psychological drive-by." Elizabeth Lopez of Banning High School in California made the astute observation of linking racial identity with this map designation: "Now when kids [of Mexican, Central & South American heritage] look at this map, they will think to themselves that since they live in the U.S., they too must be Anglo." (Census bureaucrats must own one of these maps).

As an alternative, Daniel Segura from Saginaw, Mich., in honoring the continent's oldest inhabitants, proffered Anasazi or Hopi America, adding, "I like Great Turtle Island." Ada Sosa Riddell of Sacramento, Calif., suggested using the original indigenous names for the continent, such as "Semanahuac."

Conspiracy buffs, of which there were many, will take comfort in knowing that one of the map's sources is actually the CIA. Go figure.

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Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.

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