One of my favorite words in the English language is “portmanteau,” defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, as “a word or morpheme whose form and meaning are derived from a blending of two or more distinct forms (such as smog from smoke and fog).” There are many portmanteaus that are common in our language; a favorite Sunday morning meal at Betty’s is brunch (breakfast and lunch); on sale in the fruit and vegetable section at the beautiful new downtown Braymiller Market are pluots (plums and apricots); and as a kid, the place where my family would stay during our visits to Buffalo – the intersection of Niagara Falls Blvd and the 290 – the gone but not forgotten Holiday Inn motel (motor hotel).
And how about Porchtoberfest?
To this list, I add one new portmanteau, Buffalario – that’s right, Buffalo and Ontario.
But why? Because as a dual national, who has lived both in Buffalo and is now back in my birthplace of Toronto Ontario, I can say with pride that Buffalo feels like a beautiful slice of Ontario south of the border.
It’s not just the ubiquitous presence of Tim Hortons in WNY, or the number of Ontario license plates that you would see (pre covid) at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, or even the number of Canadian flags one sees proudly flying side by side to the US flag in various spots across WNY. It’s far deeper than signs and symbols.
What makes Buffalonians close cousins to Ontarians is how both communities uphold humanitarian values that make them not only similar but also bind them in mutual beliefs such as acceptance, inclusion and outreach to those in need.
To all that makes Buffalo special, the added bond with its neighbour to the north makes Buffalo even more beloved in this dual citizen’s eyes.
The common values that Ontario and Buffalo share in honoring and welcoming those seeking refuge from war torn countries is what makes me “kvell” to be both an Ontarian and a Buffalover.
Like the Syrian refugees that Buffalo and Ontarians welcome in the mid 2010’s, both places are again showing their true humanity today by welcoming Afghans fleeing the violence of their native land. From agencies like Catholic Charities of Buffalo, the International Institute of Buffalo, Jericho Road Community Health Center, Jewish Family Services of Western New York, and Journey’s End Refugee Services, to those north of the border like the Newcomer Women’s Services of Toronto, Canadian Centre for Refugee, and Immigrant Health Care, or the Toronto Region Afghan Resettlement Fund, the outpouring of compassion I see on both sides of the border is what endears me this geographical corner of the world.
Buffalo is unique for so many things. To all that makes Buffalo special, this added bond with its neighbour to the north makes Buffalo even more beloved in this dual citizen’s eyes.
And if that wasn’t enough to bring our flags together, how about our shared love for Crystal Beach loganberry, Maid of the Mist tour boats, Niagara wine trails, and the Toronto Blue Jays? With all that binds both sides of the mighty Niagara, might we soon again see that gone but not forgotten sign, “Canadian dollars accepted at par”?
Lead image: Mural by illustrator Mario Zucca and Zoom Copy