This is an article from July 2013 I bookmarked back then with the intention of posting it just because I thought it was an interesting cultural divide within the same borders that has been festering for a while now. Just like some countries don’t seem to make sense when you consider ethnic/regional/religious/political differences, states can be the same way. The divide between Northern and Southern California is one of the more well known examples but there’s also Illinois, Michigan, Florida and arguably New York that seem to be two different worlds.
Probably within my lifetime, Colorado has made that list of places that are really hard to paint with a single stroke. You have the conservative rancher types in the Great Plains, progressive urbanites in the Denver/Colorado Springs corridor and then the various cats & dogs out in the mountains. The big divide in the state is of course rural vs. urban and that’s probably more or less the big divide just about everywhere but in a place like Colorado it might be a little more pronounced. I can see the environmentalism of places like Denver and Boulder being at odds with the ranchers and farmers out on the plains. I can also see the left-leaning tendencies of the urban areas being at odds with the rugged individualism of everywhere else in the state too.
In the article they’re talking about a movement to get rural Northern Colorado to split from the rest of Colorado. To add a little more to the idea that some borders don’t make sense, a few counties from Nebraska are said to be in on it too. Although the nuances of Nebraska aren’t as visible at the national level (same with Iowa, although they’re there), there’s a big divide between (very) rural Western Nebraska and urban Omaha/Lincoln. I’ve even heard of tongue-in-cheek motions for Omaha to leave Nebraska and link up with politically moderate Iowa and leave the ultra-conservative Great Plains/Western Nebraska folks to themselves. For what it’s worth, the world of an insurance agent in Omaha and a rancher somewhere outside of Kearney are pretty damn different and with different concerns.
This summer I went and visited an old friend I was in Iraq with who is a police officer in the Denver area. It was my first time in Denver and it was really cool to get the tour of the city from someone who grew up in a very rough part of it and then sees the city from the police officer’s perspective. He pointed out all kinds of cool little things that wouldn’t make it into Frommer’s. One of the things that kept coming up was the huge cultural divide within the city, almost like three different places. There’s the Denver that’s mostly white, progressive and affluent (see: “hipsters”, “yuppies” or whatever term is en vogue now. Getting sick of hearing “hipsters” but that’s a different story) and then there’s the mostly Hispanic Denver that isn’t as well off and isn’t as interested in progressive politics. The third Denver would be African-American but as I understand it isn’t as much of a factor these days as the White/Hispanic divide there. I don’t think there’s necessarily a ton of antagonism between the factions, but little interaction and some frustration about having to deal with divergent agendas in local politics – it’s not so much that people have conflicting agendas, it’s that generally the different groups aren’t interested in the others’ issues. It’s kind of interesting how these kind of fissures can boil all the way down to the local level and aren’t just an issue for countries.
Denver was a really cool city though, I thought….and I enjoyed both Chicano Denver and the progressive White Denver. There’s probably not a better place in the world that I know of to get a good mix of urban offerings and the great outdoors, except maybe San Fransisco. It was also the first time I’ve traveled by rail with the except of a couple short trips in the UK. It’s about twelve hours from Osceola (45 minutes or so south of Des Moines. I wish we had Amtrak! They talk about it, but I doubt we’ll see it.) to Denver, which leaves at about 7:30 pm or so and arrives around 7:30 am in Denver. I got a few hours of reading done and felt a little more comfortable than I would’ve on a plane (but yeah, the flight between DSM and DEN is about an hour and a half). It beats the ten hour drive through Nebraska, too. I’m sure I’ll repeat that voyage sometime in the future…