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Little Portugal – Leonard’s Door
On the western edge of Montréal’s Plateau Mont-Royal borough you’ll find Le Quartier Portugais or Little Portugal.
Over 60,000 people of Portuguese descent call Montréal home, making it the second largest Portuguese community in Canada after Toronto. The biggest influx came in 1950’s as people fled poverty and post-war political instability in their homeland, looking for growth, prosperity, and opportunity in Canada.
Many of those immigrants settled in a few square kilometer stretch bordering Saint-Laurent Boulevard between Pine Ave and Marie-Anne that had been populated in previous immigration waves by Italians, Greeks, and eastern European Jews.
Over the past 50 years or so the Italians gradually moved further north up Saint-Laurent, and the Greeks and Jews migrated west, but the Portuguese stayed put; adding their shops, restaurants, and traditions to an already eclectic neighborhood.
It’s a part of town that has so much to offer from a vibrant street art scene, to live music venues, with a varied mix of great restaurants and shops, that so many of us, myself included, just sort of take it for granted.
Recently however the area has been rediscovered by many due to the passing of one of its most famous long-time residents and one of the city’s favorite sons: poet/songwriter/performer Leonard Cohen.
Though in recent years Cohen lived primarily in Los Angeles he still spent a fair amount of his time at his modest home in the Plateau, right across from le Parc du Portugal.
When the news broke the day after his death, mourners began to congregate spontaneously in the park; paying tribute by reading his poems, playing his music, lighting candles, leaving flowers and notes of thanks and prayer on his doorstep.
It went on for days and then weeks. Now as the cold winter weather sets in, the stream of visitors looking to pay tribute seems to be tapering off.
I’m not sure if it was the city or the family that eventually decided to have the Plexiglas shield installed in the doorway to prevent people from leaving their offerings…
but some are still trying 🙂
And judging by the number of relatively fresh flowers I saw in the park gazebo earlier this week, people may be getting the message but they’re still coming.
And I suspect that they will for quite a while yet.
In case you’re interested you can read more about Leonard Cohen’s connection to his hometown in this short article here.
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