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The Center of America

Between the Appalachian Mountains in the east and the Rocky Mountains in the west, the center of America stretches across 1,500 miles of varying terrain. The Mississippi River Valley runs north to south through the center of this region, fed by the Ohio River from the east and the Missouri River from the west, among others. The popular imagination sees the center of the country as flat, but it is only relatively so compared to the great mountains. Rolling hills and flat stretches in the eastern half of this region make way for high plains, grasslands, and prairies in the west.

This entire region sees tremendous agricultural activity, especially wheat, corn, and other grains. Portions of the center also produce beef and pork on an industrial scale. The states in this region that border the Great Lakes have industrial cities like Chicago, Buffalo, Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and Detroit. Cincinnati and Louisville are the great cities of the Ohio River, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Memphis and New Orleans of the Mississippi. Transportation center Kansas City stands as an outpost directly in the center of the country. The cities of Texas, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin, round out the urban structure of the American center.

Culturally speaking, this vast region has more subcultures than any true general culture. Nevertheless, people who live in the center of the United States often have a keen sense that they do not live on either the east or the west coasts, represented in their thinking by the sophistication of New York City on the one hand, and the flashiness of Los Angeles on the other. This is true even in America’s third city, Chicago, a sophisticated place by most accounts. In this view, the people in the center feel themselves more genuinely American, more direct, less artificial, than the people on the coasts. In the reverse, some inhabitants of New York, Boston, Washington, DC, Los Angeles or San Francisco may view the people of the center as dull, boring, and unsophisticated. These are all stereotypes, of course, but stereotypes that are deeply ingrained.

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