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Southwest Border - Population

Southwest Border The Southwest is the sunniest and driest of all the U.S. regions. Throughout the area the characteristic vegetation is bunch grass, mesquite, and cactus. Temperature conditions across the region vary widely. Southern California, Arizona, and south Texas normally have hot summers and a short mild winter; the hot summers of the upper Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico are balanced by winter conditions that can drive temperatures far below freezing.

Despite this variety, the sunny climate of the Southwest has proven to be a powerful attraction for many Americans. Arizona was the third most rapidly growing U.S. state on a percentage basis in the 1980s, following only Nevada and Alaska. In fact, all of the region's states during this period grew at a rate well above the national average. The city of Phoenix has doubled in size several times since 1950, and it is now a booming urban area, the 20th largest in the country. Greater Tucson grew from 266,000 in 1960 to 667,000 in 1990. These low-density urban areas now roll for kilometers across large expanses of former desert.

Some of the early attraction of the Southwest stemmed from the healthful effects of the dry environment for people with respiratory ailments. The warmer parts of the region today attract many thousands of retired Americans.

In addition, Arizona has attracted many industries and corporate offices. An aircraft industry developed in Phoenix during World War II, taking advantage of its proximity to the large aircraft complex in southern California, plus the promise of good flying weather. Many employers have located in southern Arizona because the environment has a strong appeal for a work force. The relative isolation of the state from most of the major national markets, once possibly significant to Arizona's growth, has lost much of its impact with the emergence of high-value, low-weight manufactured goods, especially electronics.

El Paso, Texas, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, also roughly doubled in size between 1950 and 1970, and since then have continued to grow rapidly. Both cities, and San Antonio as well, have benefited from the presence of large military bases, although they also share in the diversified growth of light industry.

Elsewhere in New Mexico and in that part of Texas included in this region, population growth has been far more spotty. Many rural counties of the lower Rio Grande Valley and most in southern Colorado and eastern New Mexico have lost population during the last few decades, sharing the fate of other strongly rural areas in America.

The rural highlands of central and northern New Mexico, the principal core of Spanish settlement in the United States, continues to show characteristics remarkably unaffected by the Anglo tide that engulfed Albuquerque and southern Arizona. Hispanics make up perhaps 70 percent of the highlands population of northern New Mexico and comprise the entire population of many small towns. American Indians, mostly Pueblos, are a much smaller but highly visible element of the region's rural non-Anglo culture.

Along the back roads north of Santa Fe, old adobe villages and public signs in Spanish dominate the cultural landscape. Along the highway near Albuquerque, as throughout the north central part of the state, are several centuries-old apartment-like Indian villages called pueblos; their ancient appearance is in striking contrast to the low, sprawling modern city. The pueblos each control substantial areas of surrounding lands that insulate them from the Anglo community. Pueblo society and traditions are vibrant and thriving. New Mexico's capital city of Santa Fe retains a Spanish flavor with its adobe architecture, open central square, and restaurants and stores offering the food and goods of northern Mexico.

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Page last modified: 01-11-2017 19:24:02 ZULU