Virginia cultural contributions
The fact that Latinos have significantly transformed Virginia’s cultural, social, and economic landscape in profound ways is today more evident than ever. Yet, with some of the most affluent counties in the country, Virginia communities often provide landscapes of striking cultural and socioeconomic contrasts. Latino day laborers, landscapers, contractors, nannies, and domestics have become ubiquitous in multimillion-dollar residences across Fairfax County and other northern Virginia localities. In Salvadoran-dominated communities such as the so-called Arlandria (thus named because it sits on the border between Arlington and Alexandria), most residents come from the small town of Chirilagua in eastern El Salvador and exist side by side with upwardly mobile Anglo-Americans living in newly built residential and commercial complexes. Further, well-established Latinos in professional, managerial, and diplomatic occupations employ compatriots and other fellow Latinos for a host of personal services and construction needs.
Today, Virginia ranks 10th among states with the highest number of Latino businesses.12 Numerous communities offer a wide selection of Latin American restaurants; multiple Spanish-speaking radio and TV stations; Latino newspapers and magazines; soccer leagues; religious services in Spanish; Latino film festivals; heritage language schools; ATMs with Spanish text; and festivities commemorating national independence dates. Further, celebration of Salvadoran and Mexican local patron saints is customary in Catholic churches across the state. In fact, Mexico’s patron saint, the Lady of Guadalupe, has become an important religious celebration across Catholic parishes. In some churches, mariachi bands even launch off early morning festivities every December 12.
Class taught by Pastor Luz Carballo (pictured) at the Multicultural Music Camp at St. John’s United Methodist Church, jointly sponsored with Mision La Esperanza, on July 25, 2002, Springfield, VA. Courtesy of Gwen Lewis, Copyright © 2002.
As in the past, worship communities across the state continue to play a central role in the lives of many migrants, whether through building a sense of community, providing social services, or expanding newcomers’ social networks. Because a large proportion of Virginia Latinos are foreign born, religious congregations promote their adaptation and personal development through free English and citizenship classes; a wide array of volunteering opportunities; health, legal, and tax clinics; and referral to social and community services. In offering a supportive and nourishing social setting, religious congregations often play a pivotal role, because they allow members to reinforce their ethnic identities while facilitating their adjustment to mainstream America.
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