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Diversity Documented on Streets of Northern Virginia

If you listen to the comments that some American presidential candidates have been making, you might believe that the United States is becoming less welcoming to people from different countries who speak different languages.

But one neighborhood just outside of Washington, D.C., is celebrating its diversity.

Arlington, Virginia, is home to more than 130 ethnic groups. One small community is called “the world in a zip code.” They call it that because there are so many ethnic groups, languages and customs all in just one postal code.

The area is commonly known by the main road that passes through it. The road is Columbia Pike, or “The Pike” for short. The road was built in the early 1800s as the way into Washington from Virginia. Today, the Pike appeals to immigrants from all around the world.

During the last 10 years, local photographers have been documenting the lives of people living in the area. Lloyd Wolf is one of those photographers. He lives near The Pike.

“Columbia Pike has become more and more interesting. There are hundreds and hundreds of ethnicities, people from different countries along The Pike and living in relative harmony. This is something we thought was worth recording.”

Wolf and four other photographers began taking photos of the neighborhood and its people. The other photographers are Duy Tran, Paula Endo, Xang Mimi Ho and Aleksandra Lagkueva. Together, they have created a book titled, “Living Diversity – The Columbia Pike Documentary Project.”

Claudia Camacho owns a Bolivian restaurant on the Pike. She has lived in the area for 23 years.

“I like it a lot. It is really hard to move out from this area. There is a lot of people from different places of the world. And you get to know different cultures, and it’s really good.”

Mohammed Mohammed moved to the area 25 years ago. He runs a business selling imported goods from Ethiopia.

He says "White, African-Americans, Hispanic people, Asians, Arabs, Africans combined in diversity. So we know each other, we share elements of culture and language. We are happy. So I am happy.”

Wolf says he believes one reason for the community’s success is that people from different backgrounds live in the same buildings and on the same streets.

“There's no one area that's all Vietnamese or all Arab or all Somalian, et cetera,” he says. “Everyone is sort of living and working amongst each other in a blend. And it's a nice blend. It works.”

Wolf says people are also able to experience each other’s cultures during the many festivals each year. He says he and the other photographers made the book to share an idea of how the world should be.

“I use a phrase a lot – ‘This is what peace looks like.’ People get along. This is how we should be.”

I’m Dan Friedell.

June Soh wrote this story for Dan Friedell adapted it for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

Would you want to live in a neighborhood like “The Pike?” We want to know. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.


Words in This Story

blend – n. something produced by mixing or combining different things

diversity – n. the state of having people who are different races or who have different cultures in a group or organization

draw – v. to cause (someone or something) to come : to attract (someone or something)

zip code – n. a group of numbers that is used in the U.S. as part of an address to identify a mail delivery area (such as a town or a part of a city)

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