Courtesy Reuters

Our Island Hemisphere

WE NEED broad generalizations for our social and cultural thinking, as engineers need the formulae of physics. Both are working approximations, certain to shift with deepening awareness -- as, for example, Newton's mathematics was amended by the non-Euclideans, Einstein, the quantum theory. Man is an infinitely more complex field than physics. Therefore, our generalizations on man, compared to those of algebra or geometry, are at once more crude and more shifting, precisely because the human substance is more subtle and eternal. Thus, the generalization of the "three Americas." It ignores deep distinctions, in order to give us a conceptual tool for thinking America at all.

When I call the United States and Canada "one America," whose signature is Anglo-Saxon, I am not unaware of French Quebec. I know the weight and strength of non-Anglo-Saxon elements in the United States, the ever-widening and deepening contributions of Latin, Negro, Slav, Jew and Celt to our symphonic nation. Nevertheless, our dominant note -- political, psychological, cultural -- is an adaptation from British sources. Language has played a great rôle in this; for our words shape and limit the scope of our thinking. The Protestant religions have played a large part, even among those who have consciously abandoned the credos of their fathers. Most influential of all has been the excellent adaptability of British mores and values to the pioneer life of temperate North America and to the needs of a commercial-industrial civilization.

"The domain of Spanish" we may call a second America. It has far wider and subtler variations within it. Nations like Cuba have a strong Negro strain. Nations like Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, are profoundly determined by the high Indian cultures. Nations like Costa Rica are predominantly Spanish. Those like Argentina and Chile have strong European populations other than the Spanish. Yet they form one America, because of Spain and of the incidence with Spanish traits of the Indian cultures. Mexico, for instance, in which the inhabitants without Indian blood are a

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