» » Here: A Biography of the New American Continent
Here: A Biography of the New American Continent

Here: A Biography of the New American Continent by Anthony DePalma

ISBN10: 1891620835
ISBN13: 978-1891620836
Author: Anthony DePalma
Book title: Here: A Biography of the New American Continent
Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1st edition (June 20, 2001)
Language: English
Category: Politics & Government
Size PDF: 1656 kb
Size ePub: 1347 kb
Size Fb2: 1104 kb
Rating: 4.1/5
Votes: 228
Pages: 400 pages

Here: A Biography of the New American Continent by Anthony DePalma

Offers a look at how Canada, the United States, and Mexico have diverged politically and culturally despite their shared roots and similar backgrounds.


Really in depth look at the Canadian and Mexican issues before the year 2000. It is out-of-date now, but it still shows a lot of the basic conflicts inside these two societies.

In his preface to this book, New York Times journalist Anthony DePalma laments the historical distortions he acquired growing up in the United States. He writes QUOTE We don't think much about Canada or Mexico at all, because they are too close, too common UNQUOTE
His words echoed two personal experiences which immediately came to mind. As a student in Paris, I was once invited by an American friend to her college "junior year abroad" class in international politics taught by a well-known French political scientist. Asking the class what was the name of the ruling political party in Mexico, he got blank stares from his fifty odd young and eager U.S. internationalists.
Later, some French Canadian friends gave me a tape of songs by leading singers from Quebec (Charlebois, Gagnons, and others). Only once in the dozens of times I played this tape for friends in the United States was it recognized as a contemporary product from our northern neighbor.
I therefore found appealing DiPalma's invitation to take his readers on a journey of discovery reflecting his six years of reportage from Mexico and Canada for the New York Times. DiPalma couples highly readable analysis of both the history of both countries, including in relation to the United States, and their recent politics, particularly in the 1990s. He writes eloquently and hopefully of a future which he is believes is destined to link the three countries even more closely, placing special emphasis on the "triple elections of 2000" when new administrations were elected in all three countries. QUOTE From 1993 to 2000, North America evolved from being defined solely as three seperate nations divided by two borders on one continent to being a community of shared interest, common dreams, and coordinated responses to problems that have no regard for borders. UNQUOTE
DiPalma's optimistic outlook on the future relations of these three neighbors might seem to short shrift the real difficulties and controversies surrounding some aspects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which he analyzes in a positive light against the historical backdrop developed in this book. Clearly, it was not his intention to make these debates a major focus of his book.
I have no doubt that better understanding in all three countries of each other's politics and history will be critical in the twenty frist century. I found this book to be one of the few existing attempts to take a truly "North American perspective" on the trilateral relations between Canada, the United States, and Mexico, and one which is grounded in a broad, if somewhat selective, view of the histories of the three countries, and thus the continent. Hopefully, readers in the United States will welcome it as a positive contribution to increasing their historical and geographical literacy of their own backyard.

Think back to a few years ago, when prior to the 1992 election, Ross Perot in attacking the then proposed North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), described it as "a giant sucking sound" of American jobs being lost to Mexico. Well the exodus of jobs never happened and Perot's one-sided criticism was probably just politics anyway. What then accounts for Mr DePalma's equally skewed analysis "HERE"; although the arguments in this book are the exact opposite of Perot's; for Mr DePalma, NAFTA is a very good thing. Perhaps the explanation for his ringing endorsement of the gradual economic integration of the US, Canadian, and Mexican economies, comes from the fact that Mr DePalma has lived and worked for a number of years in both Mexico and Canada. Looking at NAFTA from that vantage point shows that it's influence on not only economic, but also the social and cultural aspects of peoples lives, in the 7 years since the agreement came into effect, has been largely positive.
Mr DePalma sees the signing of the agreement itself as a significant achievement; the three nations, he says overcame decades of prejudice and have struck out on "our shared destiny" based on mutual respect and a committment to free trade. He gives sketches of the political and cultural histories of Canada and Mexico throughout his book and writes best when he mixes these in with stories of his experiences in each country.
Mr DePalma is correct in saying that "we know North America exists, but we do not know North America" and we can thank him for helping us learn a lot that's new about Canada and Mexico. There are however some limits to all this talk of continental unity. In his epilogue entitled "symmetry regained" he argues that NAFTA is removing the borders between the three countries and returning us to how it was before the Spanish, French and British came. He says as we go forward as a continent we will talk about "here" and not about "there".
That may be all well and good economically and politically for everyone, and culturally also for Mexico as we become more Latino. The difficulty with this vision and ultimately then, with the book, is that the perspective from the US is startling absent throughout HERE. Mr DePalma doesn't seem to see the threat to unity when he says that in the US people "rarely are conscious that they share this continent with anyone." What happens then, when political awareness comes with liberals highlighting some of the negative economic side-effects of NAFTA and conservatives drawing attention to the potential social and cultural dangers.
HERE is very one-sided and offers only the positives of free trade and globalization. Mr DePalma does not mention any of the negatives and more importantly, he totally ignores the reality that some of the same constituents in the US that now support NAFTA, if it becomes politically expedient to do otherwise, will turn on it with a vengeance. As a result he sounds a little naive and the book's arguments feel shallow.