LIVING LA VIDA LATINA IN THE WASHINGTON METRO AREA
Over the last few decades, the Washington Metropolitan area has emerged as a major destination for immigrants from around the world. The presence of the federal government and associated industries, international institutions, foreign diplomatic corps, bio-technology firms, top-ranking universities, and regionally based international headquarters of companies like Lockheed Martin and the Marriott Corporation has been a powerful magnet, drawing the foreign-born in increasing numbers to this region. Its labor markets have absorbed immigrants with levels of education higher than the national average as well as large numbers of individuals with low levels of formal education and English proficiency, to fill occupations in the construction, hospitality, healthcare, retail trade, and building and grounds maintenance sectors.
My presentation will address some of the following issues: When did Latinos start moving in large numbers into the Washington Metropolitan area? How have representative members of the various Latino sub-communities described their migration to the area? Why did they come to the area and why did they stay? What kinds of employment did these immigrants find? What kinds of discrimination did they experience on the job or in the community? What traditions from Latin America do immigrants seek to perpetuate? How were some of these traditions (celebrations, foods, customs) organized and practiced? What kinds of contributions have they made to the region? What general patterns appear in their multiplicity of experiences that might help us to draw some conclusions about Latino life in the National Capital Area from the 1960s to the 2000s?
Therefore, my paper will uncover the stories of prominent businessmen, politicians, educators, artists, and professionals, as well as the largely invisible lives of ordinary Latinos working in offices, construction sites, restaurants, hotels, and grounds and maintenance – all critical contributors to the engine that powers this unique region − a region unique, not only because it serves as the bureaucratic, diplomatic, and political heart of the nation, but also because of the educational, professional, and income differentials that set members of this community above and apart from the rest of Latinos at the national level.