Is the Sahara in Syria? A thought came up to my mind. An abandoned red brick building in a decidedly “hip” Boston neighborhood provokes a kitschy Geo-confusion like, say, “Geisha-bar Beijing”. A restaurant sign with a vintage typography tells you that this place has been closed for a long time.
The South End used to be a Syrian neighborhood. A little web search showed me that the building has been abandoned for at least 43 years. Folks who spent the time there remember it used to be a “swank nightclub type” place catered for romantic occasions. The property is owned by a Syrian grocery store on the same street which used to operate the Sahara business.
The Syrian grocery store & a trendy shop
A few Syrians linger around the area, but the current demographic groups are Puerto Ricans and young white middle-classes transplanted from the Republic of American Suburbs. It was a weekday afternoon, and a young Caucasian mother with a baby strap and pure-breed dog passed by the street. What kind of people patronize the dog biscuit boutique down there, I was thinking…
The neighborhood has gone through gentrification...
and Urban Renewal
“¿Hablas español?” A guy with a worried face talked to me. “No, I don’t, sorry…” I answered, thinking how silly I am answering him in English.
I admit I speak English with Japanese accent. This burdensome personal complex makes me feel I cannot be other than Japanese in the States, trapped in an unbreakable demographic differentiation.
On the other hand, Latinos talk to me in Spanish, cashiers in Korean supermarkets talk to me in Korean, and even a Japanese hair dresser pointed out my awkward Japanese. Strangely, I feel relieved from the sense of ethnic isolation when people talk to me in their native languages.
So, what’s the conclusion? Yeah, Syria, Sahara…what’s the difference, man. We are all friends! … No, stop being a hippie, there is a difference…
Locate Sahara Syrian Restaurant @ Google Map
Villa Victoria: The Transformation of Social Capital in a Boston Barrio by Mario Luis Small