I tweeted this out last night while watching old reruns of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown series. This was a great show. If I were to give everything up and become a YouTuber, this is the kind of travel and food channel I would want to make, except that I would naturally have to add in some equal parts around architecture, planning, and real estate.
The responses to my tweet were of course mixed. Some people agreed and some people didn’t. And a few people provided examples of great cities that aren’t particularly known for their openness to new entrants — places like Tokyo. This kind of response is not at all surprising given how divisive this topic has always been throughout history.
But here’s what I was thinking:
1/ There are some obvious current case studies. Consider places like Toronto and Miami, where foreign born residents now make up the majority of the population. These are two fast growing and dynamic cities that wouldn’t be anywhere near as interesting without their immigrant populations. Certainly the food wouldn’t be as good.
2/ Many of the most beautiful cultures in the world are the result of different cultures coming together. Brazil is one example that comes to mind. Throughout history they have been one of the largest recipients of immigrants in the western hemisphere. Sadly, Brazil was also the last country in the western world to abolish slavery.
3/ Rome and Tokyo were cited (in the comments) as two great cities that frankly aren’t all that diverse. According to Wikipedia, less than 10% of Rome’s population is non-Italian. But Rome, while nice, is provincial these days. And Tokyo, while awesome, has a bit of a demographic problem.
4/ Even if you think a place doesn’t have a lot of immigrants and maybe isn’t all that diverse, it is still probably the result of diverse cultures coming together at multiple points throughout history. Maybe because of immigration. Or maybe because of something bad like war. Think of the Moors from northern Africa who crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and conquered the Iberian Peninsula.
5/ An openness to new people could signal and probably does signal an openness to other things. And since we are living in a world that thrives on innovation and new ideas, being open strikes me as being a fairly good and useful characteristic to have.
6/ Lastly, I come from a family of immigrants. I self-identify as being entirely Canadian. But I had to come from somewhere (multiple places, in fact). And so it strikes me as being odd and entirely selfish to want to block the flow of people now that I’m here and established.
What are your thoughts?