As for the living part of the 20th, it seems to be going back to its roots as a neighborhood of guinguettes (taverns or cabarets) and the working class. Until Haussmann came along this area was a collection of small villages. But as he razed inner-city Paris to make way for the neat and clean Haussmann boulevards and apartment houses, the poor fled, landing in the three villages—Belleville, Ménilmontant and Charonne—that became the 20th arrondissement.
Today the neighborhood is an up-and-coming mixture of immigrants and artists who are attracted by the gritty reality and cheap rents (as artists are wont to be). Those who find Oberkampf finis have moved here to get away from the gentrification of the 11th arrondissement. According to the New York Times, today’s population is “Algerians, Vietnamese and hipsters.”
As legend goes Piaf was born here under a street lamp outside 72 rue de Belleville on a cold night in December 1915, and she epitomizes the spirit of the 20th: Her mother was an Italian chanteuse, her father a street acrobat; she lived alternately with her two grandmothers, Emma Saïd ben Mohammed, an Algerian, and her paternal grandmother, a cook at a brothel. She is, of course, buried at Père Lachaise.