Sunday, September 02, 2007

Cultural Fault Line Pittsburgh

My Erie roots outline a region that would spark little debate. The connections to Buffalo and Cleveland are easy enough to understand. I know from experience that I have much in common with Pittsburghers and I recollect watching Hockey Night in Canada as a child. However, extending the cultural region to Detroit and Cincinnati is a bit of a stretch.

As I've previously argued, Pittsburgh is more than just the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers. The city is the overlap of at least three regions. To the north and northwest is the Midwest. To the south and southwest is Appalachia. To the east is the Megalopolis/Mid Atlantic. A journey to southeast could represent a fourth, depending how you define the South or Piedmont regions.

Pittsburghers, perhaps as a point of pride, tend to look eastward towards the urban corridor of NYC-Philly-DC. In this worldview, Pittsburgh serves as the western-most city of the East Coast or Northeast. But there is no denying the Midwestern and Appalachian cultural influences.

Instead of Pittsburgh being the place where these regions come together, the city imagines itself as a distinct region. The problem is that Pittsburgh lacks the confidence and sufficient vision to serve as a pan-regional nexus. What Pittsburgh could be is something it never was during its entire history.

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