I’ve lived in Cleveland for several years now during my time at Case Western Reserve University. Originally from the countryside of the Pittsburgh Seam in southern Pennsylvania, I’m quite familiar with my East Coast/Appalachia wanna-be-the-deep-south-but-we-aren’t origins. However, I can’t help but see signs about Cleveland and its belonging to the “Midwest” or hear people rave about their “Midwest lives”. I actually had to google “midwest” before I was convinced that Cleveland is geographically considered in fact “midwest”. I’d even lived in Dalton, Ohio for a couple years as a child and not one ever considered northeastern Ohio to be midwestern in any sense. Yet this “Midwest Pride” is clearly endorsed…but I refute that it’s a manifest claim.
When I think “midwest”, I think plains, cornfields, and a truly “country” feeling. Cincinnati and Indianapolis are the closest to me geographically and they fly to the top of the list. Even Chicago has a much more “midwest” feel to me, despite it being such an enormous city. But, after all of the summer I’ve spent in Chicago for hockey and southern Illinois for the Grand American Trapshoot, I find it hard to justify claiming Cleveland as “midwest”. For that matter, I rule out Detroit as well. Both cities, in my opinion, are crumbling remains of industrial towns that have been left to rot and which continue to collapse inward to survive and restart. To me, these are strictly Rust Belt cities. I’m not from the Rust Belt, but I know Pittsburgh is and it’s revitalized and beautiful. Lafayette, Indiana is on this list as well in terms of revitalized Rust Belt cities. Coming from a rural coal region, I cannot place Cleveland any closer to the “midwest” than by associating it to Pittsburgh and Detroit as part of the Rust Belt. Furthermore, I separate it from the cities like Pittsburgh and Minneapolis by realizing it is in fact in the Great Lakes region.
I’ve spent quite a lot of time in western New York for hockey, cycling tours around the Finger Lakes, and visiting a boyfriend I dated during the last five or so years. Cleveland absolutely fits into this category: the Great Lakes region. They have the lakefront, the (in my opinion disgusting, sorry!) accent, and the lack of farms that would give it a genuine “midwest” feel. When I was shocked by all of the “midwest” paraphernalia that I was reading and decided to throw together this short piece, I was relieved to find a number of resources that agree with my ramblings and opinions.