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A state of diversity
July 19, 2019
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by Ivan Raconteur

I recently returned from another summer tour of Minnesota. The journey left me refreshed and feeling fortunate that I live in this state.

It’s always pleasant to break out of the normal routine and take life at a more leisurely pace – even if only for a week at a time.

I would have been happy to extend my vacation indefinitely, but, as so often happens, funds limited my freedom. Things seem to cost more on the road.

One of the elements I enjoy most about traveling across Minnesota is observing the infinite variety of the state.

Over the miles, the geography changes, the geology changes, and there are countless little independent shops and restaurants to explore. On this journey, I also stopped at several breweries. Traveling is thirsty work.

While I sampled a plethora of carefully-crafted libations, I observed that many of these breweries are run by fiercely independent individuals who are committed to showcasing the area in which they live.

Many use local ingredients, and help to support other local businesses, including farms, restaurants, and food trucks. Many also provide a venue for local musicians.

Some highlight the work of local artists, craftsmen, and photographers.

One of the stops on my journey noted the origin of the different varieties of wood used in the taproom. Much of it was reclaimed from a local barn, and some was purchased from a Duluth business that specializes in reclaimed wood. The combination added to the authentic local charm of the place.

Each brewery has a story, and one thing that struck me on this trip was the fact that many of the owners are proud of their heritage.

This may be reflected in the name of the brewery or the beer it brews, or the story the owners tell about how (and why) they got into the business.

In an age when some people find it acceptable, or even fashionable, to treat people from other places as less than human, many craft brewers choose to celebrate the variety of immigrants who built this state and this country.

These brewers embrace the diversity that helped to make Minnesota the wonderful place it is.

This makes me appreciate them even more.

Change can be messy, and the process of assimilating immigrants wasn’t always easy or smooth in the past, but eventually people realized they needed to figure out ways to work together to move forward. Becoming an American or a Minnesotan did not mean denying their past and abandoning the culture from which they had come. It meant bringing the best of their old world and contributing to a new shared culture here.

The Dakota and the Ojibwe were among the first to live in this region, but they weren’t treated especially well by those who came later.

Germans, Swedes, Norwegians, Danes, English, Poles, Irish, Italians, and French Canadians were among the many groups that settled in what is now Minnesota. They brought with them different customs and religions, but they shared a dream of a better life.

Swedish newcomers were often farmers, and many Norwegians worked in the lumber industry.

Starting about 1890, Finns and Slavs were recruited to work in the iron mines in northern Minnesota. Later, meat packing plants brought in Balkan nationals, Mexicans, and Poles to fill jobs.

By 1930, half of the state’s population was foreign-born.

Recently, many of Minnesota’s immigrants have come from other places, such as Mexico, India, Laos, and Somalia.

Today, less than 10 percent of Minnesotans were born in a foreign country.

Still, despite the fact that the state was built by immigrants, there are some people who think those from other countries are a threat. Extremists have even suggested that those from other countries should go back to where they came from. Some irrational individuals have even suggested that people who were born here, but may look different than others (meaning those who aren’t Caucasian) should go back to where they came from. It’s not clear how that is supposed to work.

Logic won’t change the minds of those who think this state (or country) belongs only to descendants of immigrants from certain countries, or those who arrived here at a certain time in history.

In a land of immigrants, it is (at best) childish and mean-spirited to arbitrarily pick a point in time and assert that anyone who arrives after that time doesn’t belong.

That’s why I salute those who embrace the state’s rich history and rejoice in our diversity. I’m happy to report that I saw plenty of evidence of this during my recent trip across the state.

It is fitting that some of the craft beer in Minnesota is brewed using Mosaic hops. A mosaic is a work of art made by inlaying small pieces of variously colored material to form pictures or patterns. In the same way, the people – all of the people – in Minnesota come together to create a whole that is greater than the sum of the individual components, making the state a better place to live.


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