On the outskirts of the District, in Montgomery County, Md., rests a unexpectedly vibrant cultural community. At first glance, Wheaton’s Georgia Avenue, lined with strip malls and neat rows of houses, looks like the main drag of any other suburb. But beneath its unassuming surface, Wheaton is a dynamic hub of immigrant cultures.
Until the late 1940s, Wheaton was primarily farmland. As federal government employment took off in the 1950s and 1960s, however, Wheaton’s population boomed. Now, the city of 56,000 is home to several significant ethnic populations. And one only needs to take a stroll through downtown to see their contributions. From the Brazilian market on Grandview Avenue to an Ethiopian restaurant down the street on University, the city’s ethnic communities don’t just inhabit Wheaton – they help define it.
Perhaps the most striking example of Wheaton’s cultural identity are the many places where its diverse populace intersect. We profile of few of those here: At the Hollywood East Café – a renowned for its dim sum – the community has found more than just good meal but also a gathering place; at the local library, a conversation class provides both English lessons and emotional support; and at a Montessori school, where the student body reflects the area’s diversity and cultural issues are part and parcel of a teaching philosophy geared toward educating “citizens of the world.”
— Kat Aaron, Lori Grisham and Cooper Allen
In English class, stories of dreams lost and found
Audio story and text by Kat Aaron
The Evergreen School
Text and photographs by Cooper Allen
Hollywood East, dim sum in Wheaton, Maryland
Audio story, text and photographs by Lori Grisham