It turns out that this summer I will be living ten blocks away from where my grandmother grew up. I showed her a map the other day of the route between her old house and my summer apartment. She poured over the map with a magnifying glass shouting out street names as soon as she recognized him. Pure delight seemed to cross her face as she reminisced over her youth. About an hour later, her face suddenly went cold. She sternly requested that I NOT share any information with anyone in Belfast about the neighborhood in which she was raised.
Why was she so ashamed? Why had she lied to me a year before when I asked her where she grew up? When I asked my grandmother where she actually had lived, she wrinkled her nose and replied, “some poor Catholic area.” This was my grandmother, a strict practicing Catholic. I was slightly in shock. It was not until I looked at the address on her marriage certificate that I found her actual address… It seems like a lot of secrets are slowly coming out, but it’s almost more intriguing to figure out why they were hidden in the first place.
Belfast, a place of extreme turmoil and violence for centuries, is divided by religious identities that are strongly tied to territory. My grandmother, having to interact with the physical environment of her neighborhood everyday,became embarrassed of her home. When bigotry and segregation is manifested in physical environments such as dilapidated neighborhoods, that we have to interact with every single day, what happens to our own concept of self? Our identity as a community? In the case of conflict, how does this affect the tension between two communities?
Below is a photo of the wall next to my apartment. I thought the “stamp out racism” graffiti creates an interesting first taste to the summer ahead of me… Side note: My flight was delayed, so I won’t arrive in Belfast until Monday, so courtesy for this photo goes to google maps street view…