Cultural Neighborhoods Throughout the Americas

February 22, 2021

For centuries, the Americas have appealed to immigrants seeking economic opportunities and freedoms. According to the Pew Research Center, the United States alone is home to almost 40 million immigrants, accounting for 13.7% of the country’s population. When these immigrants gather into localized neighborhoods, also known as ethnic enclaves, they created culturally rich communities that share common ethnicities and values. Here, immigrants and their descendants are able to preserve their cultural practices among like-minded community members. The number of ethnic enclaves is astounding, with cultural groups from Asia, Africa, and Europe represented across the Americas. Each group brings unique experiences that attribute to the diversity of the cities they reside in. 

From Richmond, British Columbia, to Miami, Florida, below are five cultural neighborhoods across the Americas that provide an exceptional glimpse (and taste) of cultures around the world.

Russian Culture in Brighton Beach, New York

Здравствуйте! Brighton Beach is known for its Russian heritage, but its population consists of more than just one ethnic group. Located in Brooklyn, this multicultural haven is also home to many Jewish immigrants from Ukraine who settled in the neighborhood during World War II. Later, Georgian, Uzbek, and Russian immigrants settled as well after the relaxation of Soviet Union policies in the 1970s. Currently, its population is 50% foreign-born with 45% speaking an Indo-European language at home.

Brighton Beach, which has been lovingly nicknamed Little Odesa after Odesa, Ukraine, is known for its lively boardwalk and the dozens of Eastern European restaurants and shops selling cultural trinkets. Foreign eateries include everything from Turkish tea to Korean-Uzbek cuisine. The area’s Atlantic Ocean beaches and proximity to Coney Island have made it a popular summer destination for locals and tourists alike. While there, visitors can stop by a stage show for traditional folk dancing or just relax on the beach.

Danish Heritage in Solvang, California

Hej! Visitors to Solvang, California will have no issue spotting the city’s Danish influences. The city was established in 1911 by Danish pioneers who traveled farther west than their peers to avoid harsh Midwestern winters.  Following World War II, buildings were redesigned to reflect the Danish Provincial style of the residents’ heritage. Today, entering the city feels like stepping into a different country. Various tributes to Denmark throughout the city include a Hans Christain Andersen bust and replicas of Copenhagen’s round tower and The Little Mermaid statue. 

Visitors can experience Danish culture by taking a horse-drawn streetcar for a tour of the city’s windmills or stopping by any of the incredible Danish bakeries like Aebleskiver Café. Other attractions include The Elverhøj Museum for History and Art, Solvang Festival Theater, local wineries and wine tastings, and charming boutiques.  Solvang also hosts signature events like the Solvang Julefest, Solvang Grape Stomp, and Solvang Danish Days

Chinese Temples and Malls in Richmond, British Columbia

你好! There are plenty of Chinatowns across Canada, but the highest concentration of Chinese immigrants in Canada lies in Richmond, British Columbia. In Richmond, Chinese culture thrives. This ethnic enclave is 50% Chinese and has an immigrant population of 60%. Every year, the city hosts an elaborate Chinese New Year Festival complete with lion and dragon dances, a flower and gift market, and prayer services.

Across Richmond’s four main islands, there are over 60 temples, mosques, churches, and shrines including the International Buddhist Temple. The International Buddhist Temple, or Guan-Yin Temple, features elaborate gardens, ornate buildings, and traditional shrines. The temple is a replication of Beijing’s Forbidden City, the former Chinese imperial palace.

The community’s social center, Golden Village, is home to a host of regionally specific Chinese food like Cantonese, Szechuan, Northern, Hunan. Authentic Vietnamese, Korean, and Malaysian food options are also abundant. The village’s three Asian shopping centers, Aberdeen Centre, Yaohan Centre, and Parker Place Mall, are all located within a few blocks of each other and provide Chinese immigrant community members with a shopping experience similar to that of their home country. 

Cuban Life in Miami, Florida

¡Hola! Calle Ocho, the most lively street in Little Havana, is the center of Cuban life in Miami. While Little Havana is the best-known Cuban exile neighborhood, it is also home to a mix of other South and Central American immigrants. The area is dotted with art galleries, monuments, Latin-inspired cafes, restaurants, and gorgeous murals which reflect the culture of the neighborhood’s residents. Cuban music and Spanish conversations echo along the streets as locals go about their lives. 

“Viernes Culturales”, or Cultural Fridays, monthly cultural and social art fairs of local talent have drawn tourists for years. Throughout the day, visitors can watch outdoor musical performances both on stage and sidewalk, visit various outdoor art exhibits, take part in cuisine tastings, and even stop by an educational program at the historic Tower Theatre.

Little Ethiopia in Washington, DC

እው ሰላም ነው! The largest community of Ethiopians outside of Africa lies in the United States’ capital. Here, more than 40,000 (with some estimates surpassing 250,000) Ethiopian immigrants have settled, started businesses, and established their community known as “Little Ethiopia.” Nowhere is the Ethiopian presence in D.C. more apparent than along 9th and U, a single block that houses two dozen immigrant-owned shops and restaurants.

Throughout the neighborhood, visitors will be able to hear Ethiopian music and smell traditional coffee and exotic spices. Ethnic food tours are offered for those excited to try the local cuisine. These food tours visit well-known and hole-in-the-wall restaurants in order to represent the most culturally authentic and quality cuisine. Participants will encounter over 45 eateries on U Street and in the Shaw neighborhood, each providing a unique and flavorful experience. 

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