Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Saint's Day Street Party!

Rue St. Viateur was closed on Sunday for the San Marziale street festival!  While St. Viateur is south of Montreal's Little Italy by five or six blocks (and a rail-way line), it seems to have a strong Italian presence.  This might be linked to the existence of two very fine Italian cafes on the street: Cafe Olimpico and Club Social.   Both are purveyors of very fine espressos, both are operated by real Italian-speaking Italian people (as to be compared against people of Italian heritage who are a bit more removed from the language and the culture of Italy), and both are situated on the south-side of St. Viateur a mere block away from each other.  Cafe Olimpico is my fave, but that's mostly because I like the patio there better and the guys who work there in the mornings know my drink.  Starbucks fans beware - there is no sugary flavouring for the coffees and they only use 3% milk (oooooooh yum).

mmmmm.... cafe olimpico - where non-fat vanilla lattes do not exist

There is also a very large Catholic church on the corner of St. Viateur and St. Urbain.  This church was originally built by Irish Catholics and a shamrock motif is obvious in all the windows of the church.  It's bell tower can be seen from kilometers away if you're on St. Urbain or the third or fourth floor flat in a building in the area.  There's a great picture of it in my post called Beer on a Balcony - Drew and I lived across from the church for the brief period that we were in his old apartment.   It's oxidized green and brown roof commands the neighbourhood.  The church is now in the possession of another group of Catholics - I used to suspect it was Polish, but it may very well be Italian (and I say this because the Viva S. Marziale sign in the photo at the top of this post was hung on the railing of the church).

The church overlooking the street party

San Marziale was a child when he and his family were killed by a Roman Emperor, Antoninus.  His dad was Saint Felicitas, and Martialis and his six brothers were beatified because they were considered martyrs for the trial and punishment they suffered at the hands of the Romans in 165 c.e. (they were accused of being Christian).  They are now called the 'Seven Holy Brothers'.  San Marziale became the patron saint of a number of cities in Italy over the centuries.  I wonder if he has also become a patron saint of the Italian community here?

Fast-forward to the new world: the street party in his honour was great fun.  People were selling sparklers and toys that had spinning lights, and there was a band playing as well as some traditional Italian dancing going on (it was a hot night for that, let me tell you).  Drew and I grabbed a Stewart's orange pop and mingled in the crowd.  Red, green, and white lights were hung underneath red, green, and white flag banners in the intersections.  Everyone seemed to be having a great time as smoke from barbeques and the sound of laughter filled the air.  It was a really cool festival to see and walk around in, especially to hear all the Italian being spoken around us.  

Hearing the language and seeing people celebrating brought to mind again my appreciation for the vibrancy of the cultures embedded in the broader mix of Canadian culture in Montreal.  Some people think that everyone who comes to a new country should immediately adopt the language and ways of that new country, but I just don't agree.  The more languages, cultures, and exposure to history, experiences, and beliefs of other groups of people we can all get, the better off we'll all be.

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