How one identifies one’s self depends on what he or she values. Ethnic identity is an example and comes in many different variations. One common variation that people use is food. Food helps people connect with their culture and traditions. Therefore, people who wish to use food as a link to their culture must shop at grocers that carry the products that they seek. It is common for people to live in neighborhoods in which their culture is prominent. This is beneficial because local businesses in such neighborhoods are also ethnic, and therefore likely to carry ethnic products.
In the upper portion of the Bronx, New York, there is a neighborhood called Woodlawn that is predominantly Irish. The people that live in this neighborhood are either Irish American or Irish immigrants. The neighborhood has been this way since the 1840s when a large amount of Irish fled due to low economic growth and the potato famine. In the past thirty years immigration from Ireland to the United States has fluctuated. During the 1990s, Ireland’s economy was booming, which drew Irish immigrants back to their home country. However, when Ireland’s economy fell again in the 2000s, immigration increased once again.
Woodlawn has many businesses, most of which cater to the Irish ethnicity. A lot of the grocers carry imported foods and items from Ireland that would not commonly be seen in grocers in other areas on New York City. Restaurants in Woodlawn serve traditional Irish meals as well as play Irish music.
Music and art are other factors that make Woodlawn so ethnic. “The Woodlawn House of Art and Music” is a nonprofit business run by Martin O’Grady that lets art and music teachers use the space to teach. O’Grady believes that it is important to keep in touch with one’s culture and participating in these activities is a great way to do so. A lot of these music teachers form Celtic bands with these students and perform at local food establishments. These sessions occur frequently in prep for competitions overseas.
Religion is another factor that solitudes the people of Woodlawn. It is safe to say that most Irish and Irish Americans are Catholic, therefore they attend the same church. In Woodlawn, all the Catholics attend St. Barnabas Church. After mass, patrons fill Irish Coffee Shops and order Irish Breakfasts such as bangers and mash.
During the holidays, the people of Woodlawn celebrate in the large amount of pubs and restaurants in the area. Food and drink play a crucial role in this celebration. Shephard’s pie, corn beef, roasted ham and mashed potatoes are all common food items that are eaten. As for drink, the Irish live up to their stereotype and alcoholic beverages are usually drank in celebration.
A pure Irish business in Woodlawn is the restaurant and pub ‘Rambling House.’ ‘Rambling House’ serves Irish American food and entertains its customers with live entertainment which consist of bands that play Irish music. Not only does it serve locals, it attracts Irish tourists. During the summer, college students from Ireland come to New York City through the J-1 visa program. Although the students want to experience New York City, they still find comfort in Woodlawn’s familiar atmosphere. “We’ll actually get some of the same students coming back year after year,” said Caroline Casey, the Rambling House manager. (Slattery)
While some businesses pertain to one culture, there are others that pertain to multiple. A business in Woodlawn that fuses two cultures together is the restaurant “Oshima.” “Oshima” is a fusion of Mexican and Japanese culture. It serves tex-mex as well as sushi. The business attracts an ethnically diverse crowd of people.
“Little Ireland,” which Woodlawn is often called, is a suburban like area in the big city. It is convenient for those who work in Manhattan and must commute. It is common to see Irish immigrants getting off at the last stop of the four train in the Bronx and taking the thirty four bus to the heart of the neighborhood.
Wilson, Claire. “If You’re Thinking About Living in Woodlawn; A Bronx Enclave With a Suburban Feel.” The New York Times. February 19, 2003.
Slattery, Denis. “Woodlawn Awaits Return of Hundreds of Irish Students Seeking ‘a little Ireland’.”Daily News. June 9, 2013.
Ortiz, Brennan. “NYC’s Micro Neighborhoods: Little Ireland in Woodlawn, The Bronx.” Untapped Cities. January 28, 2014.
Williams, Jaime. “Irish Youth Music Group Head Overseas.” Bronx Times. August 4, 2014.
“Woodlawn Heights to Riverdale.” Forgotten New York. August 19, 2012.