Dozens of Salvadoran-Americans were invited to the White House today to honor their community’s contributions across the United States and in the D.C. region, which is home to one of the largest Salvadoran diasporas.
The Biden-Harris administration welcomed guests with cultural performances and food from local businesses, while a meeting was held with officials to discuss key issues among the community. Many in attendance were from the D.C. region: residents, business owners, and longtime advocates – like Walter Tejada, who served on Virginia’s Arlington County Board from 2003 to 2015.
“We need to have a seat where the decisions are made for the benefit of our community,” says Tejada, who is also a coordinator for the White House event. “We’re here and we’re not leaving.”
Patricia Campos-Medina, who grew up in Alexandria, Va., feels that the Salvadoran community has come a long way. She says that in previous decades there was a struggle for civil rights, including the Mt. Pleasant riots in 1991, but it feels good to now be celebrated.
“We had to fight for our rights and now we have grown,” says Campos-Medina, who is the executive director for the Worker Institute at Cornell University. “But we’re still rooted in our culture and in our traditions, and that’s what makes [us] beautiful – the resiliency of our community.”
Many, including Campos-Medina, say the event was not just a celebration but also an opportunity for White House officials to listen to the Salvadoran community as they weigh in on immigration issues like Temporary Protected Status and discuss opportunities to grow small businesses both locally and around the U.S.
“Now that we have become the third largest Latino population in this country, we want to have the opportunity to demand the same level of resources into our communities,” says Campos-Medina.
Officials with the White House say the event was both symbolic and a step in the administration’s commitment to El Salvador’s diaspora in the U.S.
Héctor Diaz, an entrepreneur who also runs the Festival Salvadoreñisimo – a local celebration of Salvadoran culture that’s been held in Maryland for 18 years – says he enjoyed being invited to talk about the issues he cares about.
“It’s an honor,” says Diaz. “I think it’s good that they’re taking into account our community.”
For Ana Reyes, who’s parents founded D.C’s El Tamarindo restaurant in 1982, it feels good to be recognized. She says there could now be more opportunities for Salvadorans to find themselves in more leadership positions – something that might have felt out of reach before.
“I think it’s wonderful for the upcoming generations. I mean, the sky’s the limit right?” says Reyes.
Source : DCIST