The richness of cultural diversity in the Red River Valley
The different cultures that call the Red River Valley home have made this place into one of the best places to live and raise a family in the Midwest, and the country.
And I am not just saying that, in every national poll we rank amongst the best in satisfaction of their population, quality of education, quality of health services, and we have developed a reputation of having plenty of innovative job opportunities- and plenty of openings despite all the setbacks these past few years with a global pandemic, so more and more people are deciding to brave our weather and set roots in our little slice of frozen paradise. After all, our people are consistently described as open and friendly, and welcoming. At least most of them are, in my experience. But who are these people? where do they come from? What traditions did they bring when they settled here? If they've been here for generations, why did they pick this area? what should we know about them? Why did they stay?
This area is not the easiest to live in, our winters are incredibly cold, we have floods, it's hot/humid and full of mosquitoes in the summer, and if you're a person of color- there's certain biases that affect how and if you find a job in the community, and what kind of life you get to experience. In places like these, where immigrants make most of the population, we tend to group ourselves with people that share the same culture that we have, because it feels easier than trying to insert yourself into the unknown majority. Especially when the cultures are completely different.
Like that old sitcom's song said, we all like to go where everybody knows our name, because they understand what we're experiencing. Being among people that you can feel comfortable sharing your culture with, must be one of the most rewarding things in life. It is for me, and many others. And this richness of culture being shared in these different communities, this is what makes us who we are as a whole.
Many people love to say that the US is a melting pot, from politicians to famous people. They all have used that wording one time or another. I always had an uncomfortable feeling when I heard that. It does seem like an accurate description of the country, if you don't look more closely. When you melt things together, they lose what makes them unique, and become something else completely unrecognizable. And that's not the truth of what happens, is it?
Tell a person whose ancestors came from Germany that their traditions are the same as someone whose ancestors came from Ireland, for example. Or tell someone whose family came from Egypt, that they have the same food as someone from Ethiopia. Or tell someone whose family came from Mexico that their music is the same as someone that came from Honduras, or Colombia. You'll see what I mean. These people might all be Americans, born and raised here, second, third and even fourth generation in some cases- yet their differences are clear. Some traditions have slowly changed to accommodate for the region and people of new generations, but they can still be identified as being from that particular culture. They have not melted together.
Because we are not a melting pot, we are a fruit salad.
Just think about it for a second. In a fruit salad, each one of the ingredients compliments the others, bringing their own flavor to enhance the whole experience and make it better. Some elements are spicy, some are more sour, some are sweeter- textures vary, yet each different flavor profile is there for a reason and a purpose, and not one of the fruits is better than the other- they are just different, there to compliment each other. What I'd like is to show the world what flavors make our particular salad unique.
I have a lot of questions, but doing a search online won't provide me many answers, and what I've found is rather vague. They divide us into races, but that doesn't tell me much. There's more to me and my friends than the color others see on our skin.
So, being a person that enjoys connecting with other people and learning about them and their particular culture, I've decided to make a list of the different ethnicities and/or countries and cultures that make this area their home, and dedicate one blog post to each one of them, and in doing so have the joy of highlighting the wonderful diversity of cultures that the FM area has, and give everyone a chance to learn more about each other.
So join us in this journey where we learn about our neighbors and friends' stories, about their experience, their art and their food, and a brief history of how they (or their ancestors) got here and/or the circumstances that made them choose this area as their home. How they became one ingredient of the fruit salad we call home.
We might find out we have more in common with each other than we thought.