Monday, July 1, 2013

... about Pittsburgh's diverse neighborhoods!

I don't know about the rest of the country, but the attempt to point out the importance of preserving culture to people from the Greater Pittsburgh Area is laughable. Probably due mostly to the roots of the steel industry in the area, immigrants of all sorts have come at various times in large numbers in search of the jobs steel had made possible. (Original iron furnaces from 1815 can be found in the area.)  Along with those immigrants came their various cultures that reflected their native countries, social practices, and religions.

Pittsburgh had many diverse neighborhoods which retain an identification with the nationalities that brought them into being – the Hill district, Polish Hill, Dutchtown (Deutschtown), the Strip District, Old Allegheny, etc. - and at the same time reflect the merging and integration of the many pockets of immigrants that make up the area. Pittsburgh was a major 'stop' on the Underground Railroad located not too far from Avery College established in 1849 to provide Classical education to Negroes. The entire area looks forward every year to the many Arts Festivals, International Villages, Food Festivals, and so forth where the particulars of each nationality are celebrated in food, dance, music, art, costume, and custom – did I mention food? Of course, food is the one area where we can meet no matter what our ancestral background, and delight over the diversity of the culinary preferences of other people.

Most Pittsburghers in the area know when and where to show up for these diverse dietary delights. The Rib festival, the Arts Festival – both downtown and Shadyside, International Village in McKeesport, and a myriad of celebrations by the various churches in the area. (We all have our favorite church where we pick up a lenten meal of Fish or Fish Sandwich, Haluski, Halupki, cole slaw, etc., or our favorite Greek church for grilled lamb, Spanakorizo, moussaka, Souvlaki, gyros, baklava, etc.)

In addition, the contribution of Pittsburgh Musicians to jazz is second to none - if you wanted to hear good jazz you couldn't miss the lower hill. There's the 28 Nationality rooms in the University of Pittsburgh”s Cathedral of Learning – 26 in constant everyday use – which reflect the cultural diversity of the area. Don't forget the Duquesne University Tamburitzans, America's longest-running multicultural song and dance company, a unique ensemble of talented young folk artists dedicated to the performance and preservation of the music, songs, and dances of Eastern Europe and neighboring folk cultures.

Of course, there's a lot more if you're interested, and I suspect everyone in every corner of the nation has similar aspects of community which they celebrate if you take the time to look. (Heck, it wasn't until I visited Dallas at New Years that I discovered the whole world doesn't celebrate the New Year with pork, kielbasa, and sauerkraut as we do in Pittsburgh. But I learned to love me some Black Bean Soup!)   

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