Utica, near the exact geographic center of New York State, has been a magnet for immigrants since Erie Canal days. Thousands of Irish workers came here to dig the big ditch in the early 1800s; after the city was incorporated in 1832 there was a wave of German immigrants. Poles and Italians, attracted by the railroad, construction, brickyard, and mill jobs, poured into Utica in the late 1800s.

Although its industrial presence is no longer what it once was, the city continues to attract—and retain—immigrants. Some of the many Italian bakeries and restaurants for which Utica is known have been in business in the same neighborhoods for three generations. The inflow of immigrants since the 1990s has been mostly from Asia, Africa, Russia, and other parts of Eastern Europe. Indeed, 10% of the population of 60,000 is from Bosnia, and the daily newspaper once printed a weekly column in Serbo-Croatian.

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