One of every five people in Montreal was born outside of Quebec. Nowhere is this more evident than on Boulevard St-Laurent. Called “The Main”, it divides the island of Montreal into east and west. Predominantly a Jewish district in the beginning of the twenties century, the Main is now likened to a miniature Europe. During the day the street is a marketplace filled with the myriad sounds and smells of the languages and foods of Eastern Europe, Greece, Latin America, Portugal, Germany, Spain, and more.
After the first electric tramway was installed on boulevard St-Laurent, working-class families began to move in. In the 1880s the first of many waves of Jewish immigrants escaping pogroms in Eastern Europe arrived. They called the street The Main, as in "Main Street." The Jews were followed by Greeks, other Eastern Europeans, Portuguese, and, most recently, Latin Americans. The 10 blocks north of rue Sherbrooke are filled with delis, junk stores, restaurants and luncheonettes, and clothing stores, as well as fashionable boutiques, bistros, cafes, bars, nightclubs, bookstores, and galleries. The block between rues Roy and Napoleon is particularly rich in delights.