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Venezuelan conductor gives lessons in geography

October 1, 2009

dudamelOn his first day as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic,  Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel gave a lesson in geography, namely what constitutes America.

A reporter asked the 28-year-old classical music sensation what he had on  his iPod, to which Dudamel answered that he loved Latin music and was listening to the likes of Venezuelan salsa star Oscar D’Leon and Dominican crooner Juan Luis Guerra.

And then the reporter said: “You are in America now, what Americans?” Dudamel didn’t miss a beat and shot back ”I am talking about Americans!” — to which the room packed with journalists erupted in laughter and clapping.

That Latin America is indeed part of America is something that Dudamel brings up often, but always with good humor and patience.  At his news conference he reiterated that America is one — Argentina, Venezuela, Mexico, the United States, all included. That message is likely to resound in Los Angeles, a city that is half Hispanic and home to millions who migrated from southern portions of the Americas.

Photo credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser (Gustavo Dudamel talks to journalists Sept. 30, 2009)


And he would be correct. All persons born in North, Central, or South America are Americans by geography since America is the name of the continent.
Merriam-Webster defines continent as a “continuous mass of land”.
Maps of the American continent show that the large land mass on the north of the continent, comprise of North and Central America, and the large land mass on the south of the continent are join at the Isthmus of Panama, thus forming a continuous land mass.
American geography books identify the Northern land mass as a continent, while Spanish text books correctly identify it—by definition—as a sub continent.
What surprises me is that US citizens are surprised that this is the case.

Posted by E Capurro | Report as abusive

What a load of crap. So why does my passport say “American”? Does his?

Posted by mark | Report as abusive

There is an undercurrent of racism or xenophobia in the continent definitions on both sides of the Atlantic. In the United States, we don’t want to be associated with those people living ‘down there’ so we separate the contiguous land mass into two parts: North (white) and South (less white). Then in Europe, they happily argue that America is one continent joined at Panamá, but then fiercely resist the logical argument that Europe and Asia are really one continent. How much more contiguous can a land mass be than Eurasia?? But the Europeans don’t want to share a continent with “those people” either so they make a long and twisted argument why they shouldn’t.

Clearly, if you are defining continents by contiguous land mass, including tiny isthmus’, then there are 5 continents: Africa, America, Antarctica, Australia and Eurasia. If you like to divide them demographically, then you end up with 7: Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America. You can’t have it both ways.


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