News headlines

A City Called Baltimore - Pride Owner of Great Ethnic Variety

By Chetan, Mangalore
(now in Baltimore, Maryland)

Baltimore, Jul 21: ‘Car..Car…Car…Car..elnodi car’- thus narrates the Sandalwood film director Nagatihalli Chandrashekar the grandeur and glory of America. Oh! I got it wrong there, it’s not about America but about the United States of America.  The latinos would smash your nose if you refer to the United States as America!  They are right; the whole Latin America also is America!! In Italy, they call it just ‘usa’, (‘usare’ is the Italian verb for ‘to use’) meaning that the USA make use of everyone and everything to their economic ends.  There is more than a grain of truth in it!!!

The dream of every other Indian has been to have a glimpse of the ‘next-to-heaven’ United States before they really agree upon to take up their final flight to the Pearly Gates.  This is more so, in the case of IT specialists.  They somehow believe that their talent will be recognized only in the United States.  If one can trust the statistics, around 40% of software engineers in the USA are Indians.  But this isn’t the whole truth. The other part is from the dialogue of some Hindi film shot in the USA: ‘…when a software engineer loses his job, a new taxi driver is born in the New York city’. (The 40% is inclusive of taxi drivers?? I don’t know!!)

The United States of America boasts of being the most cultured, civilized, and economically advanced state on the globe.  They are posing themselves as world leaders!! (Some quip in a low voice ‘World leaders in everything: in terrorism too’!!). Let’s stop at that.

The United States of America is a Unity of 50 states and a district. There are different time zones in the same country.  With a population of 301 million, it’s in the third place after China and India.  My interest in this brief write up is to tell you about the city Baltimore which has housed me since a month now!!

Baltimore City

Baltimore is an independent city located in the state of Maryland. It’s the 19th largest city in the USA.  The population of Baltimore City is 631,366 (2006 census).  The city is a major U S seaport.  The famous Johns Hopkins University and The Johns Hopkins Hospital are situated here.

It’s just around 100 kms from Washington D.C., the capital of the USA. Yet, the percentage of persons below poverty living here is 21.5%.  It’s a unique state where the percentage of black persons is 64.9% and the white, just 31.7%.  Per capita income is $ 16,978 as against $25,614 of the USA.

Afram Festival: African American festival

National Aquarium

Weekend entertainer at harbour area

A seafood restaurant at harbour area

Some of the streets of Baltimore give you a feeling of being in the outskirts of Mumbai, with tiny houses, lack of hygiene, people loitering about doing nothing.  The unemployment rate is very high. In crime and drugs Baltimore city stands within the first 3 places in the USA.  Poverty, housing problems are some of the common problems of the place.  People have been segregated into blacks and whites.  There are exclusive white areas, well-furnished, just blocks away from the poverty stricken black areas.

But how did it all happen? Just in the neighborhood of the Capital of United States, such a misery? One can call it urbanization, globalization or whatever one likes.  In Washington, and neighboring New York, the city has been expanding and getting restructured. Buildings and houses are being demolished and new condominiums are coming up.  Those who do not have the purchasing power cannot dream of owning a habitat there.  Hence, they are eliminated unceremoniously and shunted to places like Baltimore.  With poverty, excess population and unemployment, drugs, alcoholism, crime rise as byproducts.  Baltimore is second only to Detroit among cities with a population over 500,000.  Dozens of non-profit organizations have been working in the Baltimore city to help people in housing, HIV care, etc.


CNN ranked Baltimore as the 12th most dangerous American city in 2006. According to crime statistics there were 269 homicides in Baltimore in 2005, giving it the highest homicide rate per 100,000 of all U.S. cities of 250,000 or more population (The record-high 353 homicides in 1993).  In 2007, it’s already reached to 170 in July.  The homicide rate in Baltimore is nearly seven times the national rate, six times the rate of New York City, and three times the rate of Los Angeles. 

Baltimore has much higher-than-average rates of aggravated assault, burglary, robbery, and theft.  One can hear the sirens of police vehicles and fire service vehicles almost at every hour of the day and the night.  Drug peddlers hang out even at public places such as bus stops.

In 2002, the City of Baltimore unveiled a ‘Baltimore Believe’ advertising campaign against drug trafficking, drug violence, and drug use in the city. The campaign has sought thousands of signatures for its Declaration of Independence from Drugs.


Despite the city's fame for its high crime rate, Baltimore nevertheless retains a distinctive local culture and social flavor. There is great ethnic variety here.  The Caribbean and Spanish origin people have contributed greatly to the culture of the place. Most notable today are three downtown areas along the port: the Inner Harbor, frequented by tourists due to its hotels, shops, and museums; Fells Point, once a favorite entertainment spot for sailors; and Little Italy, located between the other two. Baltimore is the home of the National Aquarium, one of the world's largest.  The weekends are packed with cultural festivals like Afram (African American Festival), Caribbean festival, Artscape, etc.

The traditional local accent has long been noted and celebrated as ‘Baltimorese’ or ‘Bawlmorese.’ One thing outsiders quickly notice is that the locals refer to their city as ’Bawlmer’ or ‘Ballmer,’ dropping with the ‘t’ for the most part.   Much of Baltimore's African-American culture has roots that long predate the 20th century ‘Great Migration’ from the Deep South.

These facts serve as a little vision of the other face of USA to those who consider it as the next best place to heaven.  Beneath every glowing lamp, there is shadow!!  After a month of sojourn in the USA, now my heart cries even louder ‘Mera Bharat Mahan’!!!


Comment on this article

  • Lilee, Baltimore, MD, USA

    Thu, Jul 26 2007

    Although Baltimore has struggled with problems of poverty and crime for decades, it is a city of unmatched vitality and spirit. Regardless, choosing Baltimore as a representative city of the United States is absolutely ridiculous it would be as if an American spent a month in an iffy area of Mumbai and wrote dispatches home claiming that all of India was dark, dirty, and diseased. The majority of Americans do not live in cities, and especially not cities like Baltimore. The USA is a vast and varied country that defies quick explanation.

    DisAgree Agree Reply Report Abuse

  • Meg, Baltimore

    Wed, Jul 25 2007

    Thanks for such a "honest" review of my hometown. Might want to spend more time there and review some of the GREAT things about our town.

    DisAgree Agree Reply Report Abuse

  • Rammohan, Puttur India

    Mon, Jul 23 2007

    Amongst the cities in U S Baltimore, Boston and Sanfransisco have thier beauty of thier own and in that Baltimore has grace and splendour.

    DisAgree Agree Reply Report Abuse


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