West, French speaking Outrement, East artists and hipsters

Crossing St-Viateur street

From West to East, Mile-End gathers French Québecois, Orthodox Jews, young artists from B.C. and the Eastern provinces, greek life and video game developers. This journey takes us from the corner of Parc and St-Viateur up until bvd St-Laurent. Onboard!

Mar. 1, 2015

The blue 80 bus stopped at St-Viateur Street.
In front, a Hasidic mother stepped down, along with five children.
The trolley with two babies is huge.
I offer help, but she avoids eye contact. I do not know if she heard what I said.
In the early 90s, I remember playing “Another World”, a beautiful adventure game with a young scientist transported to an alternative universe. Suddenly, everything except himself was different. Next, the player had to survive, forgoing the earthly soft drink he was enjoying a moment ago.
Most players dive into the action, but few think of the broken space-time continuum. Did the character travel back in time? Was he gone to a distant world? Or is it a dimension parallel to Earth?
A few decades later, “Another World” still boggles my mind.
More recently, a traveler friend showed me Ingress. The mobile game imagines factions fighting for virtual portals located in real physical places. By walking around town, you could discover portals and get them from other factions. A city like Montréal has dozens of virtual portals around as landmarks or cultural locations, and hundreds of Montréalers hooked on their screens.
I did not play the game but the idea of a parallel world is fascinating. It’s seeing the unseen, or touching the untouchable.

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Untitled By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 8, 2016

I used to wonder about the men with full beards and long black coats strolling their way to kosher eateries. Was there an ideal length for their magnificent sideburns? What did they think of the Montréal weather? Where did they find their hip large black hat? Do they smile when they see Rabbi Jacob’s epic dance?
I see her one last time and I understood those would be questions left unanswered.
And I let it go, yielding to peace. There was more for now on St-Viateur.

St-Viateur Bagel, David's Tea

St-Viateur Bagel, David's Tea By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 8, 2016

A few steps away is Bagel St-Viateur. I have been here many times, and it has not changed.
The same wood oven, baking crunchy and sweet bagels twenty-four hours a day. The same jolly team happy to serve delicious sesame bagels. The same press mentions on the walls. And the old TV broadcasting a hockey game.
The same scene could have happened five, ten, twenty years ago. Little by little, it transformed an Eastern European specialty into a Montréal staple food.
A few years ago, I trained in traditional kung-fu on the other side of the street, to the late hours of the night. The thought of a hot and delicious bagel made me kick harder.
I bite into one, and I remember all the Qi-Gong training, the hand locks, and our goofy yet generous kung-fu teacher. A crunchy souvenir with all its colors and fragrances.
Thanks, St-Viateur Bagel.
I see a David’s Tea franchise opened next door.

Club Social

Club Social By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 7, 2016

Like many Montréal neighbourhoods, St-Viateur street and the Mile-End neighborhood is undergoing gentrification. Abandoned lofts and cheap rent made it a haven for artists and indie souls. Well-off professionals and families then came, attracted by the hip scene.
David’s Tea, publicly traded on NASDAQ since June 5th, epitomizes gentrification. Busy professionals are happy to pay for a sanitized and nicely packaged service, identical to what’s in another franchise in New York or Toronto. It’s also a nice name in a rental or condo ad, hereby inflating prices.

Café Olympico

Café Olympico By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 8, 2016

I think of the nearby Club Social or Café Olimpico further down the street. People meet up, drink a good cup of coffee, and enjoy the nice moment with friends. These are Mile-End’s landmarks.

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Untitled By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 8, 2016

Will Café Olimpico be replaced by a Starbucks franchise? Will Club Social be replaced by a Breather? Will Bagel St-Viateur be bought by an american food giant, hungry for the brand capital?
I see again this tension when I walk to the other side of St-Viateur. The almighty Ubisoft, whose blood is running money, producing sequels of video game IP. In front, the young Cagibi gathers indie spirits, queer panels, anarchist art performances and artisanal food.

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Untitled By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 8, 2016

Will the quirky coffee shop yield?

Moloch

Moloch By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 7, 2016

I look back. Today, I have seen immigrants from Eastern Europe.

I have enjoyed a fresh hot bagel at the old shop St-Viateur Bagel and a nice espresso at Café Olimpico. I have seen shiny businesses like David’s Tea or Ubisoft in the heart of the community. And I have engaged with artists activists in small yet big spots like Cagibi.
St-Viateur is Montréal. Montréal is St-Viateur. The tension between old and new. The beauty and creativity in small and big places. Thanks St-Viateur, you have been good!

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Story by
Heri Rakotomalala

Originally from Madagascar, and having gone through East Africa, France, Heri Rakotomalala is now based in Montréal, Canada. With his pen and his camera, he hopes to put forward inspiring stories, urban heroes, from grassroots activism to uncovered stories by the media

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