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Tuesday, March 27, 2018
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The adjacent cities of Clifton and Passaic, NJ were once the home to a variety of eastern and southern European families, many of which emigrated from Europe between 1900 and 1920 so as to find work in the many mills and factories in the area. Today, most of the factories are closed, and most of the Euro families have moved on to more distant suburbs. But northern NJ still has a diverse economy with a continuing need for cheap labor, and over the past 30 or 40 years, this has attracted a wide variety of Latin nationals to settle in the older neighborhoods in Clifton and Passaic where the Polish, Italian, Hungarian, etc. groups used to live. The Puerto Ricans came first, but today the predominant group seems to be the Mexicans. (Also, there is increasing Middle Eastern settlement in the northern areas of Clifton and adjacent South Paterson, e.g. Lebanese and Syrians).

The Poles were probably the most predominant ethnic group in these cities up through World War 2, and today a handful of Polish and later-generation Polish-ancestry families remain. And thus, you can see “ethnic stew” scenes like this: the El Mexicano restaurant sited right next to the Homemade Pirogi store on Main Avenue (they claim to have 17 varieties), just up a few blocks from the Passaic border. For the most part, everyone seems to get along. I would bet that the Mexicano gets a few tables of Polish-heritage customers, and the Pirogi place occasionally sells its wares to hungry Latin families looking for a different kind of inexpensive but filling cuisine. So, the ethnic stew of immigrants keeps on simmering in Passaic and Clifton, just as it has for over a century now!

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:37 am      

  1. Jim, I am 100% sure you are right re who eats where. It seems nobody has only one favorite type of food, that from their own ancestry; people cross lines when it comes to food all the time. Mexican food seems to be a favorite of many people. But then at certain times of the year other groups will have their specialties.
    I wonder: Is that an Aztec Indian aspect that “El Mexicano” has? I know around here in the Midwest one restaurant advertises the Aztec aspect of its foods; another is more just Mexican; both seem to do a great business.
    I’ve noticed that with Chinese food too: Some places have more specific regional Chinese foods, others cater to a kind of “Americanized” Chinese food. I guess it depends on the customers and what they prefer.
    And you are right about how the areas of cities change. In mid-20th century Chicago I came from what could only have been a German ghetto; I can’t even count the number of changes the area I grew up in has had. And I’m sure all such cities have had the same kinds of change occur as the immigrants coming in change.
    Good picture! MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — March 27, 2018 @ 4:22 pm

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