New Mexico’s frotier real American idea

By Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun

Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona was invited by a magazine, celebrating its 150th anniversary, to write an essay on “The Future of the American Idea.”
She wasn’t the only one invited to write such an essay, but her essay was a bit unusual. It’s headed “The Arizona Idea” and begins, “The American idea evokes the concept of frontier ….”
And ends, “Rest assured, if you’ll come to Arizona, you’ll find the frontier, and the American idea, alive and well here.” Is there still a “frontier?”
According to the National Center for Frontier Communities, there is. The Center counts such things as “density of persons per square mile,” “distance in miles to service/market,” and “distance in time to service/market.”
The Center counts 812 “frontier” counties in the U.S. and goes on to say that, although only 3 percent of the U.S. population lives in these “frontier” counties, the area they live on is 56 percent of our land area over 2 million square miles.
Okay, but is Arizona more of a “frontier” than New Mexico?
Again, according to the Frontier Education Center backed by State Offices of Rural Health some states have “few” frontier counties, some have “some,” and some have “many.”
Arizona is listed under the states that have “some.”
New Mexico is listed under the states that have “many.”
What about population? New Mexico has 42 percent of its population in the frontier; Arizona has 20.6 percent.
Land area? New Mexico has 108,395 square miles of frontier. Arizona?
Just 99,399.
Two other comparisons. Largest frontier area? New Mexico is ahead of Arizona. Largest frontier population? Oh, oh. Arizona is ahead of New Mexico.
But Arizona’s larger population just goes to prove that New Mexico is more frontier than Arizona.
So we can certainly say that you’ll find the frontier in New Mexico
And thus the New Mexico “frontier idea” is stronger than Arizona’s.
But what does that “frontier” mean in terms of “the American idea?”
In 1893, Frederick Jackson Turner wrote an essay on, “The Significance of the American Frontier on American History.”
In it he said, “the advance of the frontier has meant a steady movement away from the influence of Europe, and the steady growth of independence on American lines.”
Turner also said, “From the beginning of the settlement of America, the frontier regions have exercised a steady influence toward democracy.”
Perhaps, the wide, open wild west was democracy in its purest form.
And perhaps, even today, where there are fewer people, there’s more independence.
That’s the frontier spirit, that’s what’s been behind the growth of the American idea.
And what will secure the future of the American idea.

Chelle Delaney is associate publisher of the Quay County Sun. She can be reached by calling 461-1952 or by emailing: