The close proximity and easy access to cultural organizations located in the District of Columbia overshadow some of the cultural contributions of the Latino population in Montgomery and Prince George counties, where most Latinos in the Washington, DC, metro area reside. The Maryland State Art Council lists 15 organizations and individuals who contribute to various forms of cultural expressions throughout the state. In addition, community organizations such as the Hispanic Cultural Association of Maryland and the East Baltimore Latino Organization provide a variety of cultural and educational programs.
All of the universities in the state support student cultural organizations. Of these institutions, the University of Maryland at College Park houses 11 Latino student organizations and several research centers promoting Latino culture in the state. The Latin American Studies Center, in collaboration with nearby community organizations, sponsors outreach programs to encourage first-generation Latino migrant students to attend college. Multiple community-based Latino associations run festivals to celebrate Latino culture and national identity. Two examples are the Fiesta de Sevilla, organized by the Andalucia Club of Maryland, which was founded in July 2000, and the Annual Gala, which has been sponsored by the Puerto Rican Club of Maryland for the past 28 years. There are three Spanish-language dailies published in Maryland.
The close cultural ties between the Latino community in Maryland and the rest of the Washington, DC, metro region can be illustrated by the work of the Ibero-American Cultural Attaches Association. Established in 1976 by cultural attaches from various Latin American embassies in Washington, the association has sponsored numerous activities to promote the rich Latino cultural heritage and its Latin American roots. In 1991 the association sponsored a symposium at the Library of Congress to commemorate the millennium of the Spanish language.
Latino commercial center in Wheaton. Courtesy of Enrique S. Pumar.
Later in 1988, it organized the first Ibero-American Chamber of Music Festival, and in 1992 the first of the Ibero-American Fine Arts Salon was held at the Venezuelan embassy. Today, one of its principal activities is the sponsorship of the Latin American Film Festival, held at the American Film Institute, in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Latinos in Maryland have also used art and culture as a medium to combat crime and other social problems affecting them. In 2005 the Latin American Youth Center of Washington, DC, expanded its operations into Maryland, opening offices and offering programs in Prince George and Montgomery counties to encourage youth development through art education. Named the Maryland Multicultural Youth Centers (MMYC), this center offers youth development programs modeled after those pioneered in the District for more than 30 years. To kick off its Maryland initiatives, MMYC offers an arts, media, and school beautification camp in Hyattsville, Maryland, in partnership with the Democracy Collaborative of the University of Maryland and the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington. In 2006 U.S. senator for Maryland Barbara Mikulski announced that the youth centers would receive $750,000 in federal funding to launch the Center for Educational Partnership, in association with the University of Maryland, to help combat gang violence in the state through
such youth development programs as job training and placement, computer training, case counseling, arts activities, after-school programs, summer educational camps, and life-skills training.
A more sport-oriented leisure activity that also contributes to combat violence and other deviant behavior among Latino youth in the state is the soccer leagues where many Latino teams compete. In Maryland alone there are four well-established soccer leagues. For the Latino community in the state, soccer competition is more than just a sports event. It is regarded as a social networking opportunity and an occasion to reassert cultural identities, as many of the participating teams are organized along Latino nationalities and, in some cases, even along lineages and friendship ties from specific towns and neighborhoods in their native countries.
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