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Facts and information about USA
America THE GEOLOGICAL PAST There is first the titanic pre-human antiquity of geological time. This is felt in America as in few other areas on earth, above all in places like the Mesas and the Canyonlands of the West, or Yellowstone Park, or the Tetons (with its odd assonance with Titans). There, such technical terms as tectonic movement, uplifting, erosion and hydrothermal activity acquire downright mystic significations beside the wonders which they describe and which are visible to all. Wonders which duly dwarf mankind with their pre- and (probably) post-human, inexorably slow metamorphoses, revelations of Nature’s divinity, what the Indians call the “Great Spirit”. Photographers like Ansel Adams have devoted their lives to capturing this aspect of America, in images that have the abstract intricacy and epic force of great symphonic music. THE PAST OF THE NATIVE-AMERICAN CULTURES Second, there is the living or just recently expired human past of the Native American civilizations. These include the Pueblos of Arizona and New Mexico, which once constituted the northern rim of the vast Aztec Empire, as well as the tenaciously preserved traditions of tribes all over the present-day North- and Southwest and the Great Plains, from the Nez Percé to the Navajo and the Sioux. In its differing American time-scheme, this antiquity corresponds to Europe’s pre-Homeric and to Asia’s pre-Mesopotamian ancestors, that is to say, to the Neolithic and Paleolithic ages of five to four-hundred millennia ago, during the late Pliocene and the whole Pleistocene epoch. In the Old World, traces of this long early age of mankind have been all but obliterated by the layers upon layers of anthropologically more “advanced” civilizations that followed. When lions, tigers and elephants roamed over Europe and the Middle East, these peoples hunted and gathered in rudimentary encampments. They may have been “primitive”, yet we owe to them the development of language as we know it, and religion, and art, and the first scientific observations of things. Archeological evidence shows that their cultures were very similar to those of Native Americans before and even long after the arrival of the white man. Therefore Americans, and through them the rest of mankind, are privileged in being able to recuperate this Native American heritage, and above all what is still intact and alive in it, discovering the deep vital roots of an exceptionally ancient humanity, roots which are more than ever precious to us in a world devastated by “progress”. THE MYTHIC-HISTORIC PAST OF EUROPEAN EXPLORATION AND SETTLEMENT Third, there is the antiquity of Europe’s settlement of America. This spans a mere five-hundred years, if we take as our outside starting date Columbus’s landing in Santo Domingo, and less than four-hundred years if we count from the Pilgrims’ landing at Plymouth Rock - practically yesterday, from the standpoint of European history. But here again, the American time-scheme works differently, and what in Europe counts as relative modernity, in America gets stretched into the remoteness of myth. The primitive struggle for survival, the slow taming of an immense wilderness, the forging of a nation, the conflicts over slavery and the abuse of the Indians, the successive migrations westward. It is history of an antiquity analogous to that of the Bible or the Homeric epics, which makes an American feel those four or five centuries as something vastly longer and more embedded in the mists of legend than a European does his. Thus cities like Saint Augustine, Boston or Philadelphia seem positively Sumerian, while New York’s turn-of-the-century tenements are akin to the medieval quarters of Paris or Prague, and the Empire State Building corresponds to the Palace of Versailles. THE KALEIDOSCOPIC PASTS OF AMERICA’S MELTING POT America’s fourth and final temporal dimension lies in the melting-pot phenomenon. As everyone knows, America is an amalgam of every culture in the world, each with its own language and customs. On the surface these differing cultures seem to vanish as the successive generations of native-born assimilate into the single dominant mainstream. Thus a young Black from Alabama whose ancestors came over on the slave ships, a young Chicano from California whose ancestors were Pueblo Indians or Spanish colonists, a young Italian-American from New York whose ancestors were dirt-poor Sicilian peasants, and a young Wasp from Indiana whose ancestors were Scottish tradesmen, are under their skins indistinguishable from each other. Which is of course true. But at the same time the cultures of their origins go on surviving deep within them, even if in fragmented form, by way of a hundred family and ethnic rituals - a few phrases of dialect, a few down-home dishes, a few old photos or other keepsakes, and a few mental or behavioral tics perhaps barely perceivable to an outsider. America’s swiftly-moving mainstream, rather than extinguish these traits and customs, precisely by its superficial slickness and its indifference to their existence, paradoxically preserves them as under amber. Nothing of the sort would be possible in their countries of origin where these traits and customs would be - indeed, have been - swept into a constant process of interaction and change. In this way, linguistic forms or folk beliefs of families that migrated to America 100 or more years ago have perfectly retained their archaic character, while back home they have been radically modernized. This duality of the melting pot has the effect of creating pockets of antiquity in the very heartland of America, in settings where one would least expect to find them: not so much among the recently arrived Russian or Chinese immigrants as among their thoroughly assimilated cousins in hyper-modern, middle-class suburbia. Occasionally this time-warp effect is intentional, as among the Amish of Pennsylvania, but usually it is just accidental, as in the peculiar way Brooklyn’s Williamsburg section breathes the flavor of old Warsaw, and Manhattan’s Little Italy breathes the flavor of old Naples, and a good ethnic restaurant in Detroit recreates the magic of Canton or Cairo better than many a voyage to these same places.
The predominant language in the USA is English but Spanish is very much a second language, spoken by immigrants from Central and South America. The great Metropolis of New York City is a melting pot for languages but English is the nation’s mother tongue.
Best travel time
Pick the climate you want and the USA has it. In the summer, the USA can be swelteringly hot almost wherever you choose to visit but New York in the fall offers the kind of temperatures that suit most people. California and Florida enjoy sub-tropical temperatures and are particularly good places to visit in the spring and autumn but, in the high summer months, air conditioning is a must. Heavy rain is usually common from December through to March. Chicago, Illinois, lies on the Great Lakes and it is bitterly cold in the winter and very hot and humid in the summer. Probably, the city with one of the best all year round temperatures is San Francisco.
In the cities, the USA is covered by an excellent cell phone network and its countrywide landline phone link is fairly comprehensive.
Country and People
Traditions and Culture
Native Americans’ own customs and culture were superseded by British customs following the American War of Independence, which is celebrated every year on the Fourth of July. Christianity is the basis for much of modern America’s customs and traditions including the great family and friends get together for Thanksgiving that takes place at the end of November. Halloween is another big event that was introduced by Irish immigrants and has now travelled to Great Britain. The USA is such a vast country that it is almost impossible to pick one single tradition that is shared across the nation. There is no doubt that baseball, a sport that is almost entirely played in the USA, is a massive tradition that is enjoyed by spectators from all over the States. The USA has also made a tradition out of its great parades and carnivals whether they take place in a small town in Nebraska, with a carnival queen, or on Broadway in New York City. On the surface, America is the land of the free but what is acceptable in New York and San Francisco can be regarded as unacceptable in conservative midtown America. However, land is plentiful, so living the good life in a large house, with a large car and eating inexpensive food is the typical lifestyle for many Americans. It can be a bit of a shock to see law abiding citizens in the Midwest walking around carrying guns, but every citizen in the USA has the right to bear arms – and often do!
The Pilgrims that left Plymouth on the Mayflower in the 17th Century went to the New World so that they could practice their religion without hindrance. Christianity still plays a massive role in the life of people and government in the USA, although other religions especially in New York City can be practiced freely.
The USA is famous for its Greyhound buses that take people, on a tight budget, along America’s great highways and freeways. Within cities, there are municipal buses but the USA is such a vast place, and car rental relatively inexpensive, that visitors usually enjoy the freedom of driving their own vehicle.
There is no doubt that the USA has led the world in aviation although it was an Englishman who invented the jet engine. The size of the USA meant that people very quickly got used to commuting between cities by air and, today, the USA has a tremendous network of airports, mostly used for national flights. The USA was also the first country to mass produce the automobile, and travelling by car over great distances is common. Consequently, renting a car in one city and dropping it off in another is a common practice.
Discover and Enjoy
The USA has many incredible sights but the carved effigies of past presidents in monument valley have to be one of the most impressive together with the Grand Canyon. New York City is famous for its Statue of Liberty, given to the city by the French, and Chicago is renowned for having some of the tallest buildings in the world. The Golden Gate in San Francisco is an impressive suspension bridge that has often been “destroyed” in disaster movies.
New York City is one of the greatest cities on earth for dining out but America as a nation is renowned for its inexpensive restaurants, diners and coffee shops. Breakfast in the USA can include eggs, hash browns, pancakes and maple syrup and if you order a steak, you’ll get enough meat to feed a family of four!
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York State
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island