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Save the Main

June 21, 2010

Listen up, I’m going to give you all a brief history on Montreal. Anyone familiar with Montreal already knows about the French-English tensions that bubble beneath the surface. To understand this tension a little better, you have to understand that back when Montreal was burgeoning into the great city that it has now become its terrain was quite literally divided between French and English, poor and rich. St-Laurent street marked this division (and still does in a lot of ways), it runs north to south right smack in the middle of the city and everything on the East of St-Laurent was Franco territory and, you guessed it right, everything on the West side was Anglo territory. Westmount is still Montreal’s predominantly rich and Anglo neighborhood. 

The East end i still predominantly poor and its landscape features such landmarks such as the tobacco and the dog food factory. I used to live on the same street as the tobacco factory. Let me tell you, walking by that place was enough to give you a massive headache. And I’m a smoker. That’s just one example among many, but mostly what you should leave here remembering is that French Canadians were kind of shafted when the English took over. 

The street that created this border, St-Laurent, was dubbed The Main. It was the place to be: hot with action, froth with excitement and trouble. The cross-section of St-Laurent and St-Catherine was home to Montreal’s red district and still is. Strip clubs and hookers abound. If you veer West when standing at that street corner you stumble right into Montreal’s entertainment district. And this is where the problem starts. There’s a project in the works that is planning on expanding the entertainment district. The problem is that to do so they’re going to have to take over part of The Main. 

Not only is Montreal’s red district culturally and historically significant, but it is also home to many artists and performers. I went to the 35 year anniversary of one of The Main’s hot spots: Cafe Cleopatra, and before the show really got going they had a little presentation of the place’s history. I mean, Cafe Cleopatra was the first place in Canada that hired transsexual staff as well as performers. It was the kind of presentation that gave you goosebumps. Loosing this place to the entertainment district’s expansion would be a great loss to the city and its inhabitants. Imagine if Amsterdam suddenly lost its red light district. What a sad sad thing to envision! How can Montreal hope to retain its nickname as The Sin City of the North if we get rid of all its sinful pleasures? 

Read more on this issue and support the Save the Main initiative. 

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