Why Alexandria?

Chain migration played a key role in the reason why Salvadorans came and stayed in the City of Alexandria as well as the Washington Metropolitan region. Salvadoran women first came to the area through jobs with State Department employees and other Americans stationed in El Salvador during the 1960s through the 1970s.[1] These women found that domestic work in the United States did not require a specific skill, but they were in high demand.[2] At the same time, African-American women shifted out of the domestic service and into clerical work, which also played a role in the opportunities Salvadoran women had to become successful in the region.

In turn, because Salvadoran women had already settled in the region, men then followed them during the civil war.[3]  What made Alexandria such a popular location was the construction boom in the 1980s.[4] Construction work was a growing business because the population was increasing at a dramatic rate. The city needed more homes and apartments for people to live and work in. Like domestic service, construction did not require the need to speak English or to have a certain degree. Men did need skills with tools, and they had to be aware of how the building was going to be created, but these were skills that could be taught on the job.

Salvadoran women coming over to the United States faced many hardships in the workforce, and were often taken advantage of by their employers.  These jobs, however, facilitated their migration, and some could eventually leave domestic service.[5] For men who arrived a generation later, they would face similar issues in the construction industry.  Many–however–would also learn skills, becoming master craftsmen, or open their own business.

 Next: Salvadoran Women


[1] Repak, Waiting on Washington.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Nancy Foner, Across Generations Immigrant Families in America.

[5] Repak, Waiting on Washington.