New at Zócalo


The Washingtonians Who Fought to Keep Their City as the Nation's Capital

Rivalries Over Its Political Symbolism, and Damage From the War of 1812, Nearly Destroyed the City

By Adam Costanzo

    As the national capital, Washington, D.C. always has carried special meaning—representing both the federal government and the United States as a whole. No matter how Americans might feel about the state of the nation at any given time, they typically respect and revere the city—visiting on vacations and school trips by the millions each year.
    Many might be surprised to learn, therefore, that at one particularly precarious point in the city’s history during the War of 1812, Congress seriously debated abandoning the site and moving the capital to another location. Rooted in the ideological and regional disputes of the time, the moment highlighted the deep symbolic value Americans placed on Washington long before it evolved into a showplace of American culture, learning, and history as well as a stage for marches, protests, and rallies. ...

Connecting California

California's Trees Need to Stop Just Standing There

With Humans Unable to Solve the Golden State's Forest Crisis, Our Woodsy Friends Must Step Up for Themselves

By Joe Mathews

    Dear California Trees,
    When are you going to stand up and take some responsibility for all the damage you do to this state?
    It’s not only the blue-purple blossoms that you jacarandas use to stain Californians’ cars, or the colonies of disease-carrying rats that you palms harbor, or even the roots you magnolias use to keep messing up the sidewalks on my street. It’s not even that your out-of-control-fires foul California’s air, destroy homes, and drain the state budget.
    No, what most upsets me is that, instead of being accountable for the trouble you cause, you leave us humans to solve all your problems. You trees are more aloof than any Hollywood star. Do you think the Lorax from Dr. Seuss is going to show up to speak for you? Or do you think you’re magical heroes, like the trees from The Lord of the Rings? ...

Connecting California Joe Mathews


  • By Stephanie Brown

    Cooked, the socks, the pantry stocked,
    Thanksgiving dinner for twenty.
    Crab apples around ...

  • By Blas Falconer

    The ruffled hem floats
    as you spin
    Of them all,
    the one you like
    most ...

  • By Irene Sanchez

    Freeways connect
    The Golden State
    Prisons ...

  • Video Highlights

    Looking Back at Four Years of “What It Means to Be American”

    The Smithsonian/ASU/Zócalo Project on U.S. History and Identity Is Just Getting Started

    Since its launch on April 14, 2014, the "What It Means to Be American" project has convened 12 events in seven cities and published more than 300 essays on American history and identity. And we're just getting started. Here's a look back at where we've been, and where we're going.