It would be hard to draw the portrait of a typical Montrealer. The problem isn’t that Montrealers are devoid of personality but that there are almost as many personalities as there are Montrealers.
And each one is free to live according to his or her values, tastes, traditions, culture and beliefs.
Nowhere is this more evident that in the Gay Village, a neighbourhood known the world over and a place to enjoy vibrant nightlife and flamboyant festivals. It’s even apparent in the city centre’s business hub where jackets, suits and ties are worn at all hours of the day, as well as the Latin Quarter, a favourite area for artists of all kinds.
It’s important to note that more than one-third of Montreal’s population was born outside the country, primarily in Haiti, Algeria, Italy, France, Morocco, China, the Philippines, Lebanon, Vietnam and Romania.
This remarkable diversity has had a visible impact on the Montreal landscape. First consider that there are nearly 470 places of worship on the island, including churches, synagogues, temples and mosques, where people can practise their faith. Nearly 53% of Montrealers declare themselves to be Catholic, while 18% claim no religious affiliation. The remaining proportion is split amongMuslims, Orthodox, Protestants and, to a lesser extent, Buddhists, Sikhs and Hindus.
For reasons of cultural and social affinity, these communities each laid claim to neighbourhoods that are now frequently referred to by a moniker that reflects their country of origin: Little Italy, Chinatown, Little Maghreb and Little India.
In certain cases, residents’ dress make it easy to identity a district; you’ll know if you’re in the Parc-Extension neighbourhood of Little India or in Mile End or Outremont next door, both home to a large community of Orthodox Jews.
And come the FIFA World Cup soccer season, making out who are the Spanish, Portuguese, Argentine, Italian and other fans cheering on their national teams isn’t rocket science. Each goal is followed by an eruption of raucous yelling that carries into the street, informing passers-by that the “local” team has just scored. Should the team emerge victorious, partisans will jump into cars festooned with pennants and flags of the conquering country and drive around, treating the neighbourhood to a symphony of honking horns.
Montreal’s cultural diversity is a daily demonstration of people living their lives to the full and expressing themselves in a thousand and one ways. The participation of all these heterogeneous populations, with their vast repertoire of knowledge and experiences, is one of Montreal’s greatest riches.