Nine Nations of North America, 30 Years Later by Joel Garreau

But what seems to really endure is culture and values. They are slow to change, and far more so than I originally guessed. The layers of unifying flavor and substance that define these nations still explain the major storms through which our public affairs pass. And “Nine Nations” is also a map of power, money and influence, the patterns of which have only deepened.

Back in the ’70s, almost a hundred reporters around the country – Washington Post bureau chiefs, rovers, freelancers and me, their desk-bound editor – were trying to get our arms around how North America worked, really. Not how it should work. But how it did work. State by province by region, we started drawing the fault lines on maps, and sometimes on cocktail napkins. Forget those nice neat rectangles in the middle of the U.S. Let’s be real: The mountains of western Colorado are totally alien from the wheat fields of eastern Colorado. And Miami is part not of Florida, but its own watery Caribbean realm. And what a terrible idea is “California.” It behaves as if it covers three warring civilizations.

The result was my 1981 book, “The Nine Nations of North America.” The reader reaction was astonishing. This map – drawn to anticipate the news – revealed something much deeper. It turned out to be a map of culture and values, which have nothing to do with our perversely drawn state and national boundaries. That’s why the “nine nations” idea became a cult item among marketers, broadcasters, political operatives and even carmakers – who have to understand who we are, how we got that way and what makes us tick. To this day, other authors adopt the Nine Nations method to explain China, Europe, Mexico, the former Soviet Union and even the Middle East.


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