We are, we like to say, a nation of immigrants, a melting pot of cultures, nationalities and races.
It's what we, as Americans, do best — absorb and assimilate people from all the world's nations.
It's not, however, as if this has ever happened without friction. From African immigrants in Lewiston to Hispanics in Arizona, the process of bringing new people into the fold has never occurred without dissension.
If you "Wiki" the word " nativism," you'll quickly see what we mean.
When the first boat load of immigrants came to our shores, people on the second boat probably got a cold shoulder from the first group. It's human nature to feel threatened by or suspicious of anyone new or different.
The index to the Wiki entry shows the successive waves of nativism sentiment that occurred in the U.S.:
— Anti-Catholic nativism in the 19th century
— Anti-German nativism
— Anti-Italian nativism
— Anti-Chinese nativism
— Anti-immigration movements.
Amazingly, there is no mention of the people who most richly deserve to be angry about all this immigration — native Americans.
Of course, hostility toward newcomers isn't an American phenomenon.
Every country that has absorbed new people, willingly or unwillingly, has done so uneasily and sometimes accompanied by brutal violence.
The path of Somali immigrants, and other African groups in the Lewiston-Auburn area, seems to be following the usual pattern.
The new arrivals settle in the inner part of the city, usually where rental housing is the least expensive, and eventually begin building their own businesses there.
Several stories Sunday outlined the nascent transformation of Lower Lisbon Street in Lewiston as Somali businesses have begun to spring up.
This follows decades of decline along this city street, as outlined in a chart Sunday. In 1949, the city directory listed 97 buildings between 213 and 415 Lisbon Street.
That began to drop dramatically in the 1980s, particularly when the city of Lewiston changed its zoning rules to prohibit liquor-license holders within 500 feet of each other.
Today, however, there are 36 businesses in that area, reflecting a dozen new ones operated by immigrant Americans.
Hussein Ahmed is the proud owner of an older building at 263 Lisbon St., where he has established Barwaqo Halal Market.
Ahmed, 37, left Somalia as a youth to escape war. He has lived in a refugee camp in Kenya, came to the U.S. in 2001, to Maine in 2002 and opened his store in a different location in 2004.
He is working on a degree from the University of Southern Maine's Lewiston-Auburn College.
"Lewiston is becoming home," he told the Sun Journal. "Trying to become successful means owning your own property."
A century ago, he could have been a Greek, Irish, Franco or Lithuanian working hard to establish his small stake in the American dream.
His experience is mirrored by that of others along Lower Lisbon Street who are operating restaurants and stores, who share the desire to raise and educate their children here and build better lives for themselves.
Some will succeed and, yes, some will fail. All will face the extra challenge of being a stranger in a new land.