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Peopling Pittsburgh
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Family is the smallest cultural and economic unit. In families we can see on a small scale how traditions and folk life develop on the larger scale-- in whole ethnic groups. The migration and adaptation experiences of a family, whether moving across an ocean or across a state, mirror the ways larger ethnic groups migrated. When people migrate as families, or as whole races, they take their cultures with them, adapting them to fit new environments. Looking at families we can see new foods, words, games, or traditions are added to the family "repertoire" while some old family ways are lost or changed--a process called "acculturation."

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Acculturation is natural process and explains why the South Side no longer supports nearly 20 parallel churches with different languages. First generation immigrants or migrants feel the need to band together when everyone else speaks a different language and the longing for a distant home. Second generation migrants know English, have no memories of the homeland, and sometimes consciously put the old customs, which may subject them to prejudice. The need and desire for parallel institutions fades. But then comes a backlash--the next few generations feel the need to "belong" again! Today's Pittsburghers look for ways to celebrate the diversity and roots their grandparents put behind them in the Three Rivers Folk Festival, the Tamburitzans, ethnic restaurants, and Oktoberfest!

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Keeping the faith

Religious faith is one of the most enduring means of keeping alive cultural traditions and the values they represent.

To this day, elaborately decorated Ukranian Easter eggs are sold to raise funds for St. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Carnegie. Lithuanian, Slovak, Polish, Croat and Hungarian churches host special events to sell traditional foods and crafts.

A more recent – but equally impressive – religious structure is the Hindu Temple that sits above the Parkway East in Monroeville. The Sri Venkateswara (or S.V. Temple) was built according to Hindu architectural rules, and is the first authentic Hindu structure in America. It is a place for Pittsburgh's Indian residents to celebrate their culture and observe traditions, wear traditional costumes, and speak the hundreds of dialects of India with others who share their community goals.

Photo of Rick at Temple
Rick Sebak

Producer Rick Sebak visits the S.V. Temple during filming of Holy Pittsburgh.

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Family business

Families are also the smallest economic group. At oldest times, family subsistence farms were the ultimate family business, taking care of all its own needs. Today family businesses still thrive from running diners to fabricating steel! The trend is more small business and people working at home--they will be joining a long tradition.

Photo of Rick at Temple
Rick Sebak

Page's Dairy Mart, still a thriving ice cream business on the South Side, as it appeared early in the 1900s.


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