My husband and I are often drawn to New England’s older postindustrial cities, with their walkable town centers and their old brick warehouses. They are sometimes called Gateway Cities because for generations they have served as immigrant gateways into the American life. We explored North Adams, Massachusetts, with Suzanne and Erik a couple years ago, and this weekend we went to New Bedford with Suzanne.
Once the whaling capital of the world, New Bedford today is home to an anxious fishing industry, clothing manufacturing, and tourism. We went to the Whaling Museum and came out feeling glad that most countries are more focused on whale preservation than whale hunting.
We sought out Portuguese restaurants and sat on the patio near an outdoor fireplace at one place. We knew there would be Portuguese restaurants as Portuguese speakers have come to New Bedford for generations — from Portugal, the Azores, Cape Verde, and Brazil.
At our beautiful Bed & Breakfast, the hosts (who have spent most of their working lives doing economic development overseas with US A.I.D.) told us that a large Guatemalan community has grown up in the city. They said that most of the Guatemalans speak an indigenous language, Spanish being a second language for them. That’s a particular challenge when Guatemalans go to the hospital as none of the staff speak that indigenous language.
My husband and Suzanne and I walked around. We passed lively Pentecostal churches and a storefront church full of dancers and clowns. We noted lamp posts bearing inspirational banners on how to be a good citizen or how to volunteer. I include one on “Responsibility.”
We also liked the cooperative shops run by members of the local arts community. And we had fun checking out a salvage warehouse for cool architectural bits, here. Among other things, it has rather a lot of bathtubs.