Say Maine, and it's easy to conjure up an image of a chisel-faced, pipe-smoking lobsterman, but the stereotype doesn't begin to cover Maine's diversity. The state's ethnic quilt is backed by Native Americans and patched with Acadian, Franco-American, Irish, Swedish, Italian, African-American, Jewish, Russian, Finnish, and Amish peoples. They came as explorers and settlers, mill workers and boat builders, farmers and fisherman, stone carvers and quarry workers. Some fled famine, others persecution.
In Maine, these newcomers established lives, often settling in communities with fellow immigrants, creating neighborhoods flavored by their accents and traditions and often naming towns after the places they'd left behind. Some descendents continue the traditions and speak with a lilt of a far-off homeland; others have created new ties, and forged new cross-cultural identities. Many have left their marks, not only on Maine, but also the nation.
Some of Maine's immigrant pockets, places such as Biddeford, Lewiston/Auburn, New Sweden, and the St. John Valley, retain especially strong ties to their pasts, with celebrations and festivals highlighting cultural traditions, restaurants serving ethnic specialties, and sights honoring their heritage. In these places and others, you'll find museums dedicated to local ethnic communities as well as local history museums with strong ethnic collections and registries and heritage sites ranging from historic homes to reconstructed villages.
While lobster is a must when visiting Maine, follow your nose to discover restaurants and markets operated by immigrants from places such as Salvador, Eritrea, Somalia, Vietnam, France, Italy, Greece, Korea, Poland, China, Boliva, Japan, Sweden, and Thailand. A sip here, a nibble there, and you'll leave with a real taste of Maine.