Walking the streets of West Side St.Paul, the diversity is apparent among the residents. Our mission for this interview was to find someone who lives and grew up in West Side and can accurately discuss the neighborhood’s cultural diversity. We succeeded when we met Rosa, a young West Side local who was very open to talking about her neighborhood.
Q. How long have you lived in West Side?
A. My whole life. My parents were immigrants and they moved here right before I was born.
Q. Have you seen much change in the neighborhood since you were young? If so, how has it changed?
A. I definitely have. When I was a kid, I only hung out with the other Mexican kids so that was all I ever noticed. As I got older, I noticed the other ethnic groups and the diversity here. I think that West Side has always had a lot of diversity though, much more in a small area than the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.
Q. Has anything stayed the same?
A. The buildings are still the same. A lot of the stores and restaurants haven’t changed much.
Q. This area is known for its diversity. Why do you think it is so attractive to new immigrants?
A. I think that reputation is why it is so attractive to new immigrants. The fact that there are already other immigrants settled here makes them more comfortable here. Also, there are a lot of amenities available for them. I know the Wellstone center is really popular for new people moving here. I think the transition is just easier in this neighborhood.
Q. Have you ever seen the differences in cultures become a problem?
A. In high school there were the typical cliques but over all there aren’t many problems. People mostly stay within their own groups.
Q. Why do you think that is?
A. Comfort. I think it has to do with who you feel most comfortable around. I grew up with families and neighbors who were all like me, so that’s who I tend to see now that I am older. That’s common in any community though.
Q. Then would you say that there isn’t a lot of interaction between the different cultures in the neighborhood?
A. No, there definitely is. There is definitely interaction between the different groups. The Wellstone has classes and offers services to everyone and people are always nice and polite. But I think that overall, the trend is to stay within your own cultural group.
Q. Ok. How do you see West Side in relation to the Twin Cities?
A. Well, I guess it’s just a small part of St.Paul. I think that a lot of times people just write us off as being a bad part of town. Since we are sort of out of the way, most people don’t come here unless they live here. It’s definitely not somewhere that tourists would try to visit.
Q. Why do you think that is?
A. Probably because of the stories that people hear about West Side. The news only talks about the negative stories, the violence and the poverty. No one hears about the Cinco de Mayo celebration or the welcoming residents that live here.
Q. Does that negativity ever bother you? Or make you wish you didn’t live here?
A. When I was younger, I usually stayed in West Side and everyone I knew lived here so I never felt any shame. But now that I am working outside West Side and meeting new people, it is hard to be proud. Many times people refer to West Side as the ghetto, where there is a lot of violence and only poor people live. It sometimes makes me not want to tell people where I am from. I am afraid they will judge me as something I am not.
Q. Wow that must be hard. Is there anything you want others to know about West Side?
A. I think that the one thing I would say is that they should just visit the area. The image that you see in the news and on TV isn’t very accurate, and there is a vibrant and diverse culture here. We have great markets and stores here that a lot of people don’t even know exist. I wish more people would just come here, then they could see why we all like it so much.
Q. Wonderful! I think that’s it. Thank you so much! We really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us!
We would really like to thank those who took the time to talk with us and discuss the neighborhood which they live and work. Their knowledge and opinions have helped us to see a clearer picture of West Side St.Paul.
-Shannon, Angella and Luke