As a freshman at Macalester College, I was ready for a completely new school with intriguing class discussions and a variety of experience-based learning. I was attracted to Macalester’s small class sizes, focus on internationalism and community feel when I selected the school, and I think my first year course has really reflected the foundation of what Macalester stands for. In this course, Latino Expressions in the City, we were asked to explore different Latino communities in Minneapolis and I had the pleasure of visiting Lake Street. Not only was I overwhelmed by the welcoming environment Lake Street portrayed, but I also had a fantastic break from eating dorm food and found delicious, authentic food all along the street. Lake Street is a diverse, progressive neighborhood that works to uphold their ethnic traditions and customs while also adapting and utilizing their resources.
Lake Street has a strong sense of community pride for the multiple ethnic groups that make up the residents of the neighborhood. During my project, my group mainly focused on the Powerhorn Park section of Lake Street. This area is predominately Mexican, but it is easy to see Jewish, El Salvadorian, and Scandinavian influence as you travel through the streets. Each community seemed to embrace their own culture, but every culture interacted respectably and had a peaceful relationship. When I traveled the streets I found children playing in the yard, and families all eating together at restaurants or in their homes. This gave the neighborhood a safe and nurturing ambiance. While some of these restaurants stood independently, cultural mixing was prevalent in the Midtown Global Market. This market was established by various Latino business owners and neighborhood groups, who expressed their desire for their ethic diversity to be preserved.
The community utilizes their resources very well, as they converted the old Sears building into the Midtown Global market, a bustling hub of ethic mixing. This market, combined with other stores on Lake Street provides the residents of the community with everything they need on a daily basis. The Mercado Central is another popular market with traditional Mexican goods. If there happened to be something someone could not find on Lake Street, the public transportation system in this area is very easy to access and inexpensive. The convenience of all resources and activities on Lake Street makes it a popular place to reside, and also to visit as a tourist. The community entrepreneurs have been able to adapt to compete as commercial businesses to outside visitors, while still maintaining their authenticity. I felt welcomed as a tourist to the neighborhood with friendly smiles, and I was able to read the signs because they were written in English and Spanish. While many workers who sold me food were unable to speak English, we were able to communicate through pointing at pictures and the minimal English they knew.
Each culture can also be observed by the artwork displayed outside or on the walls of each building. Many murals were painted along restaurant exterior walls, which helped the owners define their space. Many bright colors and traditional farming pictures were displayed on the Mexican businesses. Ingebretzens, a famous Scandinavian deli however had typical painting of Scandinavian life outside their shop. It was easy to determine which store associated with which culture when there was a mural outside of the building.
I felt that my experience on Lake Street was unique to any other neighborhood I had ever visited. Every ethic group seemed to have immense pride for their heritage, but they also seems to live in peaceful unity with the diverse surrounding population. Not only did their relationship seem harmonious, but they also appeared to benefit from the space they shared. With newly established centers, like the Midtown Global Market and the Mercado Central, the neighborhood is going to continue to maintain the cultural and ethic diversity it has today, while also being a self-sustaining environment that provides for its residents and visitors alike.
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