There’s no way my wife and I could have been prepared for our first visit to Mi Pueblo—the new 44,186-square-foot multicultural supermarket that recently opened on Green Springs Highway.
The store is bright, clean, and stacked high with fresh meats and poultry, fresh seafood and fish with products from all over the world. My guess is that Mi Pueblo does more business in a day than the Food World it replaced did in a week.
Signage was primarily in Spanish and when we stopped to ask our first question, the response was, “No inglés.” Someone quickly came to translate, but I felt like we had been transported to a foreign county.
I grew up in Birmingham in the ’50’s and this is not the world of my childhood.
Back then it seemed everyone was either “Colored” or “White.” There were signs that said “Colored” and “White” on the restrooms and on the water fountains. There were movable placards on the buses instructing “Coloreds” to sit in the back.
In the 1950’s Birmingham and Atlanta were about the same size. While Birmingham chose church bombings, fire hoses, and dogs, Atlanta branded itself as the city too busy to hate.
I was recently told by someone who would know, that when the decision was made to locate a major airport to Atlanta in the early 1960’s, even though Birmingham was a better choice, we were eliminated because of our racial turmoil.
Birmingham and Alabama as well as the rest of the U.S. are going through a major transition.
According to the Census Bureau, it’s predicted that the majority of public school children in Alabama will be minorities by 2018. And the majority of Americans will be minorities by 2043.
This is not a conversation about illegal immigration. Legal or not–America has always been a melting pot and Birmingham’s demographics are changing with the rest of our country.
I regularly go to Costco on Sunday afternoons to eat one of their huge hot dogs and people watch. I’m amazed by the diversity of shoppers–Asians, Hispanics, Indians—people from all over the world. The same is true when I walk around UAB.
It’s surprising that our Birmingham conversation often revolves around Black and White-when our population now is so diverse.
I told my wife when we left Mi Pueblo that I felt we had just returned to America–but didn’t have to go through customs. And Mi Pueblo is just getting started. They have another store in Pelham and are planning a new one on 280. It doesn’t take a fortune teller to see that America and Birmingham are moving into a new world. There should be no confusion about that.
Birmingham screwed up in the ‘50’s and 60’s.
Now we have a chance to get it right.
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David Sher is the publisher of ComebackTown, a co-founder of Buzz12 Advertising Agency and co-CEO of AmSher Collection Agency. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).