Salvadoran American

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Salvadoran American
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Total population

1,974,870[1][2]
0.64% of the U.S. population (2013)[2]

Location of El Salvador
Regions with significant populations
California, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Houston, Dallas, New York City, Long Island, Greater Boston, Miami, Northern Virginia, Chicago, Atlanta, Charlotte, Las Vegas, Northwest Arkansas,
Languages
Salvadoran Spanish, English
Religion
Christianity (mostly Catholic)

Salvadoran Americans (Spanish: salvadoreño-americanos, norteamericanos de origen salvadoreño or estadounidenses de origen salvadoreño) are Americans of full or partial Salvadoran descent. As of 2010, there are 1,648,968 Salvadoran Americans in the United States, the fourth-largest Hispanic community by nation of ancestry. Salvadorans are predicted to be the 3rd largest Hispanic group by the next census, replacing Cubans.[3] Recent estimates put the Salvadoran population as high as 2 million, as of 2013.[4] Salvadoran Americans are affectionately nicknamed "Salvis", a term young Salvadoran Americans use to refer to themselves. Salvadorans are the largest group of Central Americans of the Central American Isthmus community in the U.S, they are also one of the largest group of people who are largely of partly American Indigenous ancestry, natives to the Americas. Among the Hispanic groups, Salvadorans are also the largest group of Spanish speakers in the United States who speak with a medieval voseo dialect in their Salvadoran Spanish, using "vos" instead of tu.

Demonym[edit]

Salvadorian, Salvadorean, and Salvadoran are all three accepted and used terms for naming people of El Salvador ancestry. However both Salvadorian and Salvadorean are equally the most widely used terms in daily life by English speaking El Salvador citizens living in the U.S and other English speaking countries. Salvadorian and Salvadorean in their respectable spelling and pronunciation can be seen in most restaurant and other El Salvador related signs in the U.S and else where in the world. This is because the sounds "ia" and "ea", in Salvadorian and Salvadorean sound more closely to the "ñ" sound in the Spanish term Salvadoreño.

History[edit]

The first Salvadorians that came to the United States before the war began arrived mostly to San Francisco, where they worked as shipyard employees in the early twentieth century.[5] These were mostly working class Salvadorans, as Salvadorans from the middle and upper classes came to the U.S. for education or residence in the early 1900s, usually in the East Coast. Salvadorans that came during this period were mostly economic migrants, as El Salvador was affected by economic turmoil during the Great Depression and slow growth after World War II ended. In the 1960’s and early 1970’s, most of the immigrants were women; and found work being housekeepers or in childcare.[6]

Documented Salvadorans in the United States 1930-1970[7]

Years # of Salvadorans entering the U.S.
1931-1940 673
1941-1950 5,132
1951-1960 5,895
1961-1970 14,992

While Salvadoran migration to the U.S. remained low throughout the first several decades in the 20th century, it spiked on the onset of the Salvadoran Civil War, where many fled to the United States seeking sanctuary from the devastation that plagued the country. Many Salvadoran refugees came to the city of Los Angeles, where today holds the largest population of Salvadorans in the country. A large population of Salvadorans also arrived in Washington D.C; where by 1989, an estimated 150,000 Salvadorans reside in the nation’s capital.[8] It is important to note that many Salvadorans came undocumented and applied for asylum and/or work permits in order to legalize their situation. This massive migration to the U.S. was a result of the political violence as much as it was the deteriorating economic conditions in El Salvador.[9] Young men, escaping the country from being drafted to the military or the guerilla, made the majority of these immigrants/refugees. In comparison to their rural, working class, and often illegal counterparts migrating to Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Houston, wealthy Salvadorans also found refuge in the U.S.; migrating to Coral Gables and Key Biscayne in Miami.[10] They numbered over 1,000 individuals and many of them are temporary exiles, who planned to go back after the war ends. By the end of 1989, more than 250,000 Salvadorans migrated to the U.S. Unofficially, there were 1 million Salvadorans that came to the U.S., many of them illegally.[11]

Documented Salvadorans in the United States 1971-2000[12]

Years # of Salvadorans entering the U.S.
1971-1980 34,436
1981-1990 213,539
1991-2000 215,798

Half or more of the refugees—between 500,000 and one million—immigrated to the United States, which was home to less than 10,000 Salvadorans before 1960.[13] El Salvador's exiled population is already changing life at home through its influence and its dollars and will undoubtedly play an important role in its future history.

Salvadoran American immigration has changed the face of foreign affairs in the United States. The flood of refugees from a U.S.-supported government forced a national rethinking of foreign policy priorities. This in turn transformed the nature of American support for the Salvadoran government and may have helped to end the war in El Salvador. Salvadoran Americans are at the center of an ongoing national debate about U.S. responsibility toward the world's refugees and the future of immigration in general.

Exodus Immigration (1980s-)[edit]

The exodus of Salvadorans was a result of both economic and political problems. The largest immigration wave occurred as a result of the Salvadoran Civil War in the 1980s, in which 20%-30% of El Salvador's population emigrated. About 50% percent, or up to 500,000 of those who escaped the country headed to the U.S., which was already home to over 10,000 Salvadorans, making Salvadorans Americans the third-largest Hispanic and Latino American group, after the Mexican American majority and Cubans (when not including Stateside Puerto Ricans). Salvadorans however are predicted to replace Cubans as the largest population by the next census.

The number of Salvadoran immigrants in the United States continued to grow in the 1990s and 2000s as a result of family reunification and new arrivals fleeing a series of natural disasters that hit El Salvador, including earthquakes and hurricanes. Gang warfare, which made El Salvador one of the dangerous countries in the world, also contributed to the surge of immigrants seeking asylum in the late part of the 2000s and the first four years in the 2010 decade.[14] By 2008, there were about 1.1 million Salvadoran immigrants in the United States. Salvadorans are the country's fifth largest immigrant group after Mexican, Filipino, Indian, and Chinese foreign born.

The immigrant population from this tiny Central American country is now nearly as large as the immigrant population from much larger China. (As reference, China's total population is 200 times larger and its territory is about 500 times larger than El Salvador's.) .[15]

Language[edit]

In the U.S., Salvadorans speak both English and Spanish, but their use varies. Recent immigrants and older generations tend to speak Spanish exclusively, while the newer generations (descendants of immigrants) learn Spanish as a first language only to become fluent in English when they start school. According to the American Community Survey of 2004, 5.2 percent of Salvadorans only speak English at home, the lowest compared to other immigrant populations. The percentage of “non-English at home, English spoken “very well” is at 36.2, the third lowest after the Guatemalans and the Hondurans.

Salvadorans speak Spanish in a medieval voseo speech form equivalent to Thou, making them the largest voseo Spanish speakers in the United States. Salvadoran Spanish is one of the largest types of Spanish spoken in the United States. In Washington D.C, Salvadoran Spanish is the largest type of Spanish spoken and it’s the only city in the U.S where Salvadoran Spanish is the first types of Spanish spoken, while in Los Angeles, Salvadoran Spanish is the second type of Spanish spoken. Salvadoran Voseo Spanish and Salvadoran slang called (Salvadoran Caliche), is a source of identity and virility to Salvadoran American youth. Its also creates a kinship with other Central American groups especially Hondurans. Salvadoran Spanish holds many Native American Indigenous dialects from the Lenca and Pipil language that have survived in Salvadoran Spanish.

In the study, Voseo To Tuteo Accommodation Among Two Salvadoran Communities in the United States by Travis Doug Sorenson, Sorenson compared two Salvadoran communities, Houston and Washington D.C., on the way they maintain the use of voseo in the U.S. where the tuteo form is most widely spoken.[16] His research found that while Salvadorans are the majority of the Hispanic population in Washington D.C., they use the voseo form as much as their counterparts in Houston; a city with a large Mexican population that used the tuteo form instead. The hypothesis that Salvadorans participants in Washington would significantly retain more voseo than their compatriots in Houston was wrong to say the least.[17]

Religious affiliation[edit]

The emblematic and iconic image of Jesus Christ standing on top of terra, as seen in the Monumento al Divino Salvador del Mundo, is the most important symbol for Salvadorans who are mostly of Christian religions. Jesus who is (El Salvador-The Savior), is the patron of El Salvador, country which is named after the messiah himself.

Reflecting the country itself, most Salvadorans are Christian. Traditionally, Salvadorans are Roman Catholics, but since the civil war, there is a huge increase of Evangelicals or other Protestant denominations in the country.[18][19] Some Salvadoran Americans converted to Mormonism or Jehovah Witness. Younger generations of Salvadoran Americans are less likely to practice religion than their parents.

During the civil war, some members of El Salvador's small, but vibrant Jewish community immigrated to the United States,[20] mostly settling in the Miami area.

Demographics[edit]

Areas of concentration[edit]

Many Salvadoran Americans reside in the Greater Los Angeles area, including Orange County, California, the Inland Empire and San Diego; The Washington Metropolitan Area: Washington, D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia, is currently the only metropolitan area in the entire country where Salvadorans are the majority among Hispanics, most concentrated in the suburbs in Northern Virginia and Maryland. In Washington D.C., 32 percent of the Hispanic population are Salvadorans, the largest in the city. Salvadorans settled in the neighborhoods of Mount Pleasant, Adams Morgan, and Columbia Heights.[21] Most of these Salvadorans came from the eastern departments of San Miguel and La Union,[22] especially from the Salvadoran towns Chirilagua and Intipuca.[23][24] Formerly known as Arlandria, a neighborhood between Alexandria and Arlington in Virginia is now referred to as Chirilagua, due to the many Salvadorans living there from that particular town.[25] Salvadorans are the largest immigrant population in Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.[26]

There is also a large number in Texas esp. in Houston, Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas; increasingly New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005; and in other California regions outside of Los Angeles such as the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition, there is a significant number of Salvadoran Americans in the New York City area such as Northern New Jersey, Flushing, Queens, Corona, Queens, Far Rockaway, Queens, Parkchester, Bronx, South Bronx, Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Long Island. In Massachusetts, Salvadorans tend to reside in Greater Boston, mostly in cities such as Chelsea, Somerville, Everett, Revere, or Boston. Salvadorans have also established a significant community in the island of Nantucket (Where Salvadorans account for 7.3% of the total population there as of 2010), of which a sizable majority come from the municipality of Agua Caliente, El Salvador.[27][28] Smaller, but sizable populations of Salvadorans can be found in Miami-Dade or South Florida as well in Central Florida; Georgia; and North Carolina.

Recent census data shows that for the first time, there are more Salvadorans living on Long Island than Puerto Ricans, with Salvadorans now numbering nearly 100,000,[29] representing nearly a quarter of all Hispanics in the region, making them largest Latino group in Long Island. They tend to concentrate in the hamlets of Brentwood, Central Islip, North Bay Shore, Uniondale, and the village of Hempstead.[30]

States[edit]

State Salvadoran
Population
(2010 Census)[31]
Percent
 Alabama 2,419 0.1%
 Alaska 938 0.1%
 Arizona 12,225 0.2%
 Arkansas 14,980 0.5%
 California 573,956 1.5%
 Colorado 12,329 0.2%
 Connecticut 6,223 0.2%
 Delaware 1,231 0.1%
 District of Columbia 16,611 2.8%
 Florida 55,144 0.3%
Georgia (U.S. state) Georgia 32,107 0.3%
 Hawaii 801 0.1%
 Idaho 1,159 0.1%
 Illinois 14,217 0.1%
 Indiana 7,401 0.1%
 Iowa 5,601 0.2%
 Kansas 5,108 0.2%
 Kentucky 2,351 0.1%
 Louisiana 5,120 0.1%
 Maine 618 0.0%
 Maryland 123,789 2.1%
 Massachusetts 43,400 0.7%
 Michigan 3,401 0.0%
 Minnesota 7,175 0.1%
 Mississippi 1,174 0.0%
 Missouri 4,628 0.1%
 Montana 140 0.0%
 Nebraska 6,106 0.3%
 Nevada 30,043 1.1%
 New Hampshire 823 0.1%
 New Jersey 56,532 0.6%
 New Mexico 2,051 0.1%
 New York 152,130 0.8%
 North Carolina 37,778 0.4%
 North Dakota 73 0.0%
 Ohio 5,627 0.0%
 Oklahoma 2,788 0.1%
 Oregon 5,906 0.2%
 Pennsylvania 7,952 0.1%
 Rhode Island 2,715 0.3%
 South Carolina 3,830 0.1%
 South Dakota 780 0.1%
 Tennessee 8,570 0.1%
 Texas 222,599 0.9%
 Utah 8,998 0.3%
 Vermont 116 0.0%
 Virginia 123,800 1.5%
 Washington 12,637 0.2%
 West Virginia 893 0.0%
 Wisconsin 1,867 0.0%
 Wyoming 198 0.0%
Total US Salvadoran Population 1,648,968 0.5%

Metropolitan areas[edit]

The largest Salvadoran populations are found within these areas (Source: Census 2010)

  1. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA MSA - 381,519 (3.0%)
  2. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV MSA - 228,045 (4.1%)
  3. New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA MSA - 199,510 (1.1%)
  4. Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX MSA - 140,928 (2.4%)
  5. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA MSA - 77,149 (1.8%)
  6. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX MSA - 59,383 (0.9%)
  7. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA MSA - 42,672 (1.0%)
  8. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH MSA - 36,929 (0.8%)
  9. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL MSA - 33,033 (0.6%)
  10. Las Vegas-Paradise, NV MSA - 24,542 (1.3%)
  11. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA MSA - 24,439 (0.5%)
  12. Baltimore-Towson, MD MSA - 17,980 (0.7%)
  13. Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI MSA - 13,700 (0.1%)
  14. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA MSA - 12,085 (0.7%)
  15. Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC MSA - 12,080 (0.7%)
  16. Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ MSA - 9,840 (0.2%)
  17. Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO MSA - 8,865 (1.9%)
  18. Sacramento--Arden-Arcade--Roseville, CA MSA - 8,701 (0.4%)
  19. Bakersfield-Delano, CA MSA - 8,485 (1.0%)
  20. Richmond, VA MSA - 8,238 (0.7%)

US communities with largest population of people of Salvadoran ancestry[edit]

The top 25 US communities with the highest populations of Salvadorans were (Source: Census 2010[32])

  1. Los Angeles, California - 228,990
  2. Houston, Texas - 75,907
  3. New York, New York - 38,559
  4. Washington, D.C. - 16,611
  5. San Francisco, California - 16,165
  6. Brentwood, New York - 15,946
  7. Dallas, Texas - 15,696
  8. Irving, Texas - 12,544
  9. Boston, Massachusetts - 10,850
  10. Hempstead, New York - 10,707
  11. Charlotte, North Carolina - 9,516
  12. Palmdale, California - 9,488
  13. Wheaton, Maryland - 8,912
  14. Las Vegas, Nevada - 8,392
  15. Elizabeth, New Jersey - 7,364
  16. Chillum, Maryland - 7,315
  17. Oakland, California - 7,246
  18. Silver Spring, Maryland - 7,103
  19. Arlington County, Virginia - 7,088
  20. Dale City, Virginia - 7,036
  21. San Jose, California - 6,829
  22. Long Beach, California - 6,657
  23. Alexandria, Virginia - 6,436
  24. Chelsea, Massachusetts - 6,391
  25. Santa Ana, California - 6,389

US communities with high percentages of people of Salvadoran ancestry[edit]

Top US communities with the highest Salvadoran ancestry in 2010:

  1. Islandia, Florida 44.4%
  2. Brentwood, New York 26.3%
  3. New Cassel, New York 24.7%
  4. Colmar Manor, Maryland 24.7%
  5. North Bay Shore, New York 23.9%
  6. Langley Park, Maryland 22.5%
  7. Edmonston, Maryland 22.0%
  8. Brentwood, Maryland 22.0%
  9. Mendota, California 21.9%
  10. Chillum, Maryland 21.8%
  11. Uniondale, New York 20.2%
  12. Hempstead, New York 19.9%
  13. North Brentwood, Maryland 19.1%
  14. Adelphi, Maryland 19.1%
  15. Landover Hills, Maryland 19.1%
  16. Central Islip, New York 18.5%
  17. Wheaton, Maryland 18.5%
  18. Cottage City, Maryland 18.3%
  19. Woodlawn, Maryland 18.3%
  20. Chelsea, Massachusetts 18.2%
  21. Woodlawn, Virginia 17.9%
  22. Marumsco, Virginia 17.9%
  23. Roosevelt, New York 17.8%
  24. Loch Lomond, Virginia 17.6%
  25. Hyattsville, Maryland 16.4%
  26. Sudley, Virginia 16.4%
  27. Yorkshire, Virginia 16.3%
  28. Huntington Station, New York 15.8%
  29. Inwood, New York 15.6%
  30. Herndon, Virginia 15.5%
  31. East Riverdale, Maryland 15.2%
  32. Mount Rainier, Maryland 14.4%
  33. Sterling, Virginia 14.0%
  34. Monon, Indiana 14.0%
  35. El Jebel, Colorado 13.8%

U.S. communities with the most residents born in El Salvador[edit]

Top 25 U.S. communities with the most residents born in El Salvador are:[33]

  1. Langley Park, MD 25.2%
  2. Seven Corners, VA 18.0%
  3. New Cassel, NY 15.5%
  4. Mendota, CA 13.8%
  5. Brentwood, NY 12.9%
  6. Hempstead, NY 12.3%
  7. Bailey's Crossroads, VA 12.2%
  8. Adelphi, MD 11.3%
  9. North Bay Shore, NY 10.6%
  10. Herndon, VA 10.3%
  11. Edmonston, MD 9.6%
  12. Chelsea, MA 8.8%
  13. Wheaton-Glenmont, MD 8.7%
  14. Chillum, MD 8.2%
  15. Silver Spring, MD 7.9%
  16. West New York, NJ 7.8%
  17. Uniondale, NY 7.8%
  18. Jefferson, VA 7.5%
  19. El Jebel, CO 7.5%
  20. Colma, CA 7.5%
  21. Mount Rainier, MD 7.3%
  22. Huntington Station, NY 7.2%
  23. Cottage City, MD 7.2%
  24. West Gate, VA 7.2%
  25. Freeport, NY 7.2%

Race and ethnicity[edit]

Much of the Salvadoran population that came to the U.S. are of Mestizo ancestry, a mixture of Native American Indigenous and European (more specifically mostly Spanish) ancestry, as well as tri-racial Pardo Salvadorans who have African blood lines in addition to their Indigenous and Spanish ancestries. The Salvadorans of mixed ancestry Mestizos, can vary differently from European and Native American ancestry. For example some Salvadoran have Lenca ancestry, while others have Pipil ancestry. While Spanish is the main European ancestry in Salvadoran Mestizo mixture, others like French and Italian are also present. Afro-Salvadoran ancestry is also found among Mestizo Salvadorans a well as Arab and Asian ancestry. This makes El Salvador, a society with a myriad of ancestries, the melting pot stage in El Salvador is considered to have already blended and concluded into modern day Salvadorans, though American Indigenous Lenca and Pipil ancestry and heritage is the main base and most strongest in El Salvador's ancestry, heritage, and culture.

Among Salvadorans who also identify themselves as Mestizo culturally are Salvadorans who are racially European/White, especially Mediterranean, Indigenous Salvadorans who do not speak indigenous languages nor are they acculturated into Indigenous Salvadoran culture and tri-racial Afro-mestizo "Pardo" Salvadorans. The Indigenous Salvadorans are mostly of Lenca and Pipil. Many of the mixed (more specifically mostly Mestizo) and White Caucasian Salvadorans have ancestry from, Italy, Portugal, Germany, France, England, and Ireland. The majority of Salvadorans who are of Mestizo ancestry can trace their American Indigenous ancestry to the Lencas and Pipil people.

Salvadorans also have Arab ancestries that include Lebanon, Syria, Iran and the majority come from Palestine that immigrated to El Salvador. There is a significant number of Jewish Salvadoran families in the country.

Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Los Angeles, (Nuestros Angeles de El Salvador) dancers from San Salvador, El Salvador, The dancers followed the marching band

Socioeconomics and Culture[edit]

Pupuseria La Macarena, Central American style restaurant, Hampson Street, Riverbend, New Orleans.
Pupusas, a Mesoamerican cuisine of Mayan origin, The oldest direct evidence of pupusas preparations in the world comes from a 1,400-year-old Maya site, Joya de Cerén, in El Salvador.
The most typical Salvadoran food eaten by Salvadorans daily is fried Plantain, smashed beans with rice mixed in, usually accompanied by sour cream and dry hard cheese.

According to the 2004 ACS, only 40 percent of all Salvadoran and Salvadoran American residents in the U.S. have a high school diploma, the lowest among all other Hispanic groups.[34] Only 10 percent of Salvadorans possess a bachelor's degree, also the lowest among Latino Americans. Nonetheless, 15 percent of Salvadorans lives under poverty (among the lowest) and the average income of Salvadorans is $40,000.[35] In the Washington metropolitan area, Salvadorans who came to the area during the 1980s working in construction or the service sector are becoming business owners.[36] These small business owners, numbering 4,000, usually tend to be in the construction, restaurant and cleaning industries. The Salvadoran-American Chamber of Commerce of the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area was created to help Salvadorans business owners with " financial consultations, legal services, general business and government information, and technical assistance."[37] In Los Angeles, near the intersection of Pico Boulevard and Vermont Avenue,[38] The El Salvador Community Corridor was created among other things, to help boost the economic livelihood and community pride within the large Salvadoran population.[39] Asylum laws prohibit many Salvadorans from renewing their ties to their home culture. Most asylum seekers cannot visit El Salvador, even for a loved one's funeral, without losing their legal status in the United States. Thus, many the U.S.' Salvadorans are torn between embracing the culture of the United States and maintaining their Salvadoran identities.

U.S.-Salvadorans form an insular community—with their own social clubs, doctors, even banks—and often have little contact with outsiders. They maintain a tight network, living almost exclusively with other people from their home country, or even their hometown.[40][41] Many older immigrants have spent more than ten years in the United States without learning any English.

Although they immigrated largely out of fear rather than a desire for a new life, Salvadorans in the United States, especially the younger generations, are gradually becoming Anglicized. The U.S.-born children of Salvadoran refugees or immigrants are becoming more aware of their Salvadoran roots, even at the behest of their Salvadoran born parents.[42] This is especially true during the 2009 Salvadoran presidential elections where the leftist party, FMLN had its best chance to win for the first time. These Salvadoran Americans, raised and taught in the U.S., understand the problems in El Salvador is facing and become more proactive on ways to address these issue. While conditions have improved in El Salvador, few refugees have returned home. The United States—once a place of refuge—has become a new home for Salvadoran immigrants.[43] To reflect the changing needs of the United States Salvadoran community, the Central American Refugee Center in Los Angeles (CARECEN), one of the largest support organizations for refugees, changed its name to the Central America Resource Center.[44]

In areas with large Salvadoran populations, festivals celebrating their culture abounds. In Los Angeles, three different Salvadoran events were celebrated in the month of August alone.[45] In Wheaton, Maryland,[46] Gaithersburg, Maryland, and Prince William County, Virginia,[47] were sites of the annual Salvadoran-American Festival. Pupusas, El Salvador’s national dish, have become the best and most know representation of Salvadoran culture in the mainstream United States. In some pupuserias in Maryland, they Americanized the pupusa; by using crab meat or creating a cheeseburger-style pupusa instead of the normal ingredients used (cheese and pork). [48] The State of New York passed a resolution recognizing August 6 as Day of the Salvadoran American (Día del Salvadoreño-Americano).[49] Similarly, in Maryland, governor Martin O’Malley declared August 5 as the Day of the Salvadoran American.[50][51]

Social issues[edit]

Many cultural observers contend that mainstream United States has not yet formed a distinct stereotype of US-Salvadorans, though because most of the concerns and affairs of Salvadorans in the U.S media point out and focuses generally in the U.S's Proxy war showdown and involvement in the Salvadoran Civil War legacy, Maras (gangs), violence, and crime rates of El Salvador, naming it the most dangerous region of planet earth, the word El Salvador is sometimes stereotypically seen as being synonymous with a dangerous Gotham City-like society, Jurassic Park-like land, bleak, lost world, and a dystopian nation. The word Salvadoran is sometimes synonymous with atavistic society, rife, vice, crime, and psychopathic cold blooded gremlin-like murders in the media. Ultimately, El Salvador and the Salvadoran population are seen as a type of post apocalyptic war torn society from Central America.

Salvadorans have settled in neighborhoods already populated by other Latin Americans, and outsiders generally have only a vague sense of the various Latino nationalities in those neighborhoods.

US-Salvadorans have sometimes had tense relations with their neighbors in the cities where they are concentrated. Salvadoran gangs have fought with Mexican gangs in Los Angeles, and in Washington, D.C., a city with a significant Salvadoran population, they have competed with African Americans for jobs and resources.

Political participation[edit]

The Mama Ayesha's Restaurant Presidential Mural is a large mural featuring eleven American presidents starting with Dwight D. Eisenhower and ending with Barack Obama. Created by El Salvador-born artist Karla Rodas (aka Karlisima), the mural was funded by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities.It has been described by locals as being DC's "largest postcard."

Politically, Salvadorans are more involved in local and state governments than the federal government. The Washington DC Metro Area has some Salvadoran American politicians representing the voice of the second largest Salvadoran community that lives there. Elected to the county board of the smallest self-governing county in the US with the 3rd highest income, Walter Tejada is one of five members that govern Arlington County, VA; becoming the chairman of the Arlington County Board in 2013.[52] Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez represents the 18th District of Montgomery County, MD, the 10th highest income county in the US. Delegate Victor R. Ramirez represents the 47th District of Prince George's County, MD, the wealthiest African American-majority county in the US. Ramirez became the first Latino to serve in the Maryland State Senate in 2011. A partner of Ramirez is Prince George's County Council member William A. Campos.

In Long Island, Salvadorans have been seeking political power in towns or county boards.[53] Monica Martinez was elected to the Suffolk County 9th legislative District in 2013.[54] Her brother Antonio Martinez, was the first Salvadoran elected to any office in Long Island; is a Councilman in the town of Babylon, New York.[55]

Salvadorans do not have nearly as much influence with the political establishment as voting constituencies have. In Los Angeles, for instance, there is a stark contrast between the U.S.-born Chicano neighborhoods of East L.A. and the Pico-Union and West-lake neighborhoods, populated by immigrant Mexicans and Central Americans. The former have many community centers, legal services, and social workers; the latter have very few.[56] This situation is slowly changing, however: Carlos Vaquerano, the Salvadoran community affairs director of CARECEN, was named to the board of Rebuild L.A., organized to help the city recover from the L.A. riots in 1992.[57]

One area of U.S. politics in which Salvadoran Americans have played an important role is in legislation regarding their immigration status. In the debate leading to the passage of Temporary Protected Status for Salvadoran refugees and the extensions of that status, Salvadoran organizations lobbied politicians and brought their cases of persecution to the press. At first, refugee organizations were run by Americans, and Salvadorans often appeared in public only with bandannas over their faces. Gradually, Salvadorans and other Central Americans began to take charge of the refugee organizations and assume a higher public profile.

Salvadoran Americans have also contributed significantly to labor union activity. Many refugees fought for the right to organize under repressive conditions in El Salvador, and they brought dedication, even militancy, to American unions. In a 1990 Los Angeles janitors' strike, for instance, Salvadoran union members continued to march and demonstrate even under the threat of police violence. And Salvadoran street vendors in Los Angeles have organized to improve their precarious situation.[58]

Salvadoran Americans relations with El Salvador[edit]

Salvadoran-American Allison Iraheta performing during the American Idols Live! Tour 2009.

Most Salvadoran Americans are not active in or outspoken about Salvadoran politics. Those U.S. organizations most actively involved in Salvadoran politics (such as the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, CISPES) have attracted little participation by Salvadoran Americans themselves. The immigrants' own organizations have focused not on politics at home, but on relief and jobs in immigrant communities throughout the United States. This relative indifference to home politics may be surprising, given the political passions that have long raged in El Salvador; but the majority of Salvadoran Americans seem interested in putting the hatred of the past behind them.

While the most ideologically committed of the Salvadoran refugees settled in Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Australia, or Canada, those who settled in the United States focused on survival and building a community. Refugees who fled the government and refugees who fled the guerrillas have a lot in common; many will not even discuss their political beliefs, lest it disrupt the fragile solidarity of the refugee community. Furthermore, many Salvadorans on the left became active in politics because of the desperate poverty and class war in El Salvador; when they arrived in the United States, where it seemed for the first time possible to escape poverty through hard work, their political commitment sometimes melted away.

Salvadorans outside El Salvador are not permitted to cast absentee ballots in that country's elections. The majority of the refugee community is thought to favor the left, and the absence of their votes is believed to have helped the right-wing party ARENA win the Salvadoran presidency in 1989 and 1994.[59]

The relative lack of political influence among Salvadoran Americans is not necessarily permanent. Salvadoran immigrants are densely concentrated in a few cities, and they have a strong infrastructure in refugee organizations. As more Salvadorans become U.S. citizens, the immigrant community will probably play a larger role in local and regional politics. And given their economic contribution, they will almost certainly come to exert more influence in El Salvador.

El Salvador and United States relations[edit]

US Navy 110715-N-VV618-164 Salvadoran children wave American and Salvadoran flags to welcome the official party at the Continuing Promise 2011 open

The history of U.S.-El Salvador relations encompasses some controversial moves and operations by the United States, e.g. the U.S.-involvement in the Salvadoran Civil War[60] and interference in Salvadoran elections such as during the 2004 presidential election.[61]

President Obama and President Funes announced the U.S.-El Salvador Partnership for Growth during President Obama's March 2011 visit to El Salvador. El Salvador is one of four counties—-along with the Philippines, Ghana, and Tanzania—-with which the United States is undertaking this partnership. The Partnership began with an analysis by economic experts from both countries, which identified the two key binding constraints to growth in El Salvador as crime and insecurity, as well as low productivity in the tradeables sector. Based on this assessment, the U.S. government worked closely with the Government of El Salvador to identify and prioritize key activities that would address those constraints to growth and unlock El Salvador's economic potential. The activities are outlined in a Joint Country Action Plan that will steer the partnership moving forward.

The recent 2009 elections resulted in the election of the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party over the ARENA party that had been in power since 1992. ARENA supporters argued that the victory of FMLN would result in retaliation from the United States and lead to political reforms similar to those in Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela despite the U.S official neutral position. An Obama visit to El Salvador symbolized its acceptance of the new government and show to other Latin American countries that it will maintain strong ties despite the change of regime. The shift from ARENA to FMLN does symbolize the growing disenchantment of the Salvadoran population with Washington foreign policy.

Despite this shift, El Salvador has not decided to become more self-reliant. The economic development it experienced by following the Washington Consensus was worth the cost of economic reforms because it was able to access the American market and compete in the global market. Therefore, the Obama visit validated the stability within El Salvador in the transition from ARENA to FMLN and showed other countries in the region the benefits of following the Washington Consensus. Obama’s visit was in order to strengthen America’s position in Central America and show that countries that follow liberalization reforms enjoy stronger ties with the United States.

El Salvador’s accommodation on economic and militia demand also meant that the United States would provide more benefits to Salvadorans living within the United States; Salvadorans have been eligible to receive TPS (Temporary Protection Status) since 2001. Approximately 2 million Salvadorans live in the United States, making it the sixth largest ethnic group in the United States. Such a large number of Salvadorans means that they have the capacity to send money back to El Salvador, which would make a very large contribution to its economy.

Remittances from the United States make El Salvador more dependent on the United States support for Salvadorans living there. Thus, it is imperative that El Salvador maintains strong political ties with the American government because of its dependence on remittances. Remittances account for twenty percent of El Salvador’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which makes the economic ties with the United States even more important. Salvadorans who reside in the United States benefit as well from El Salvador’s accommodation as exemplified by the American government’s consistent extension of the TPS.

El Salvador has lobbied successfully for those extensions because of the strong ties that have been forged. United States-El Salvador relations have been a reciprocal relationship in which El Salvador has gained much more than if it were to have chosen a resistance strategy. Thus, President Obama’s choice to stop in El Salvador exemplifies to the Salvadoran community in the United States that they have nothing to fear with the change of political parties.

The special relationship developed between the United States and El Salvador in the past 20 years has differentiated El Salvador from its neighboring Central American countries. Despite the high level of violence, El Salvador has transformed itself into a stable democracy and a success story in economic development.

U.S.-Salvadoran relations remain close and strong. U.S. policy towards the country promotes the strengthening of El Salvador's democratic institutions, rule of law, judicial reform, and civilian police; national reconciliation and reconstruction; and economic opportunity and growth. El Salvador has been a committed member of the coalition of nations fighting against terrorism and has sent 10 rotations of troops to Iraq to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.

On August 26, 2011 Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte joined Salvadoran Minister of Defense David Munguía Payés in a formal send-off ceremony for 22 Salvadoran troops who will deploy to Afghanistan on August 28. The 22 troops will serve as instructor trainers within NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan (NTM-A). Specifically, 9 Air Force Trainers will work with the Afghan Air Units in Herat, 3 Military Police Trainers will work with the Afghan Police Academy in Kabul, and 10 Counter-Insurgency Instructors will operate throughout Afghanistan, training military and police units as part of 6 Mobile Training Teams.

Salvadoran troops have earned a reputation as an effective and professional military force for their participation in international humanitarian missions to Lebanon, Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, Sudan and Haiti. El Salvador’s Cuscatlán Battalion also served with distinction during 11 rotations in support of humanitarian and reconstruction activities in Iraq. This latest deployment will mark El Salvador’s first participation in the NATO mission to Afghanistan.

U.S. ties to El Salvador are dynamic and growing. More than 19,000 American citizens live and work full-time in El Salvador. Most are private businesspersons and their families, but a small number of American citizen retirees have been drawn to El Salvador by favorable tax conditions. The Embassy's consular section provides a full range of citizenship services to this community. The American Chamber of Commerce in El Salvador is located at World Trade Center, Torre 2, local No. 308, 89 Av. Nte. Col. Escalón, phone: 2263-9494.

Principal U.S. officials include:

  • Ambassador: Mari Carmen Aponte
  • Deputy Chief of Mission: Robert Blau
  • USAID Mission Chief—Deborah Kennedy-Iraheta
  • Political Counselor—Maeve Dwyer
  • Economic Counselor—Mitch Ferguson
  • Commercial Officer—Michael McGee
  • Public Affairs Officer—Marti Estell

The U.S. Embassy in El Salvador is located in Antiguo Cuscatlán.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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