Bolivian Restaurants in Northern Virginia

Based on the 2010 U.S. Census, Bolivians are the largest immigrant group residing in Alexandria, Virginia from South America. Bolivian immigrants total 1,227 in the City of Alexandria, comprising 0.9% of the total Hispanic or Latino population.[1] With their increasing numbers, Bolivian immigrants are making their mark in Northern Virginia in dance, music, and especially food.


Chart courtesy of 2010 Census Summary File, “Hispanic or Latino by Type: 2010,” U.S. Census Bureau

There are around 20 Bolivian restaurants in Northern Virginia, ranging from Springfield to Sterling. Several Bolivian restaurants are clustered in Alexandria or just across the city border in Arlington County. Some restaurants with the highest ratings on Google reviews are Sibarita Retaurant in Arlington, Pan American Bakery in Alexandria, and La Caraqueña in Falls Church.      


Map of Bolivian restaurants in Northern Virginia

Interestingly, very few of these restaurants advertise that they serve Bolivian food. Of all the restaurants listed on the map above, only 3 include the word “Bolivian” in the name. An article in the Washington Post claims that this is because Americans are not familiar or comfortable trying Bolivian food and restaurant owners want to make their businesses as popular with as many possible customers as possible. Orlando Murillo, a Bolivian immigrant who owned Tutto Bene in Arlington, which has since closed, served pasta and wine during on the weekdays, but on the weekends they served their most prized Bolivian dish: salteñas, which are comparable to the popular Central American empanadas. In fact, Tutto Bene was selling about 3,000 salteñas per week in 2001. Murillo said that “this place goes crazy on the weekends…Americans ask: what is going on?”[2]


Tutto Bene: Arlington, VA, photo courtesy of ARLnow.

In order to get Americans interested in a Bolivian restaurant, most owners serve more than just salteñas and sonso (similar to mashed potatoes). Murillo claimed: “We have to be realistic, the Bolivian food is not that well know in the American community.”[3]

Owners often serve American food in addition to their traditional Bolivian dishes to make these establishments more accessible. According to the Washington Post: “The weekend salteña tradition is another measure of an immigrant community known for its success in adapting to the United States while maintaining strong homeland ties.”

[1]: U.S. Census Bureau, “Hispanic or Latino by Type: 2010,” 2010 U.S. Census.

[2]: Douglas Hanks III, “The Saltena Circuit: If you want this Bolivian Meat Turnover, You Have to Know Where to Look,” Washington Post, April 25, 2001, accessed November 10, 2016, LexisNexis Academic.

[3]: Ibid.

[4]: Ibid.

Ethiopian Americans in NOVA

Like other immigrants, Ethiopian parents living in Alexandria, Virginia have a difficult time instilling traditions from their homeland in their children. This is especially true for children who were not born in Ethiopia, or those who left Ethiopia for the United States at a very young age. There are many factors that control how much a second generation Ethiopian Americans engages the culture from their parents’ home country.


(Map of Ethiopia courtesy of CDC)

A common experience of the children of Ethiopian immigrants is situational identity.[1] Children can choose “how much” of their Ethiopian background they want to share with others based on where they are or who they are around. For example, kids would most likely act differently around their peers at school than they would at an Ethiopian gathering, such as church or meetings. Kids face enormous pressure to fit in in the United States, so it is understandable why they would not want to stand out or look different.

One factor that determines how much second generation Ethiopian Americans connect to their heritage is how much their parents or grandparents identify with their background. If parents constantly instill a sense of “strong pride” in their “national and ethnic heritage,” then their children will be more likely to follow suit and will be more inclined to have a “meaningful ethnic identity” in their new homeland.[2] In order for children to stay connected to their heritage, it is imperative that their elders are constantly fitting in Ethiopian activities and traditions into everyday life. One way that parents can do this is by transferring Ethiopian “legends, myths, memories, values, and special rites and rituals,” which allows children to feel a part of a community.[3] Kids also held onto their culture by attending festivals and Ethiopian churches. This allows second generation Ethiopians to “internalize Ethiopian pride and culture.”[4]


(Ethiopian Festival in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Ethiopian Heritage Society in North America.)

One example of a young Ethiopian American is Afomia Wendemagegn, a high school graduate who lives in Alexandria, Virginia. In an interview from the Alexandria Legacies oral history program, Wendemagegn discusses the ways that she has kept up with the traditions from her home country. Wendemagegn and her family travel back to Ethiopia every few years so she is able to stay connected to family, and she also believes that staying connected to her Ethiopian heritage is incredibly important. Wendemagegn explains: “…it’s nice to…feel like you’re a part of something else, alongside being part of American culture as well.”[5]

Second generation Ethiopian Americans connected at varying levels to their heritage. However, like most second generation Americans, they had a mixture of cultures from both their homeland as well as their new home. These children often became a mixture of the culture they were receiving at home, as well as what they were receiving from their neighborhoods, class backgrounds, friends, and lifestyles.[6] It is mostly up to parents of these children to ensure that ethnic pride is instilled in them from a young age to keep them connected to their heritage.

[1] Elizabeth Chacko, “Identity and Assimilation among Young Ethiopian Immigrants in Metropolitan Washington,” Geographical Review 93, no. 4 (October 2003): 494-495.

[2] David Levinson and Melvin Ember, eds., American Immigrant Cultures: Builders of a Nation (New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan, 1997), 269.

[3] Elizabeth Chacko, “Identity and Assimilation among Young Ethiopian Immigrants in Metropolitan Washington,” Geographical Review 93, no. 4 (October 2003): 500.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Afomia Wendemagegn, interview by Krystyn Moon, Alexandria Legacies, Office of Historic Alexandria, June 4, 2015.

[6] Levinson and Ember, 268.

Felix Pulzone

The nineteenth and early twentieth centuries could be looked at as a time of great migration. Around 150 million people left their homes in search for, what Italians called, “work and bread.”[1] Phillip “Felix” Pulzone was one of the 150 million included in this statistic. He was born in Italy on December 1, 1881. When he was 30 years old, he and his wife, Maria, immigrated to the United States and settled in Alexandria, Virginia.[2]

It is unclear whether or not Pulzone and his family had the intention on staying in the United States or not, especially due to the fact that by 1920, after nine years of living in the U.S., he did not speak English and was not naturalized.[3] While in Virginia, he lived at 816 Columbus Street in Alexandria with his family and two additional boarders, and he worked as a car repairman for a railroad company.[4]


Like other immigrants, he registered for the World War I draft in Alexandria. All eligible men, regardless of citizenship, were required to register.  What is interesting here is that his draft card–unlike the 1920 U.S. Census–notes that he does speak English.  


(Felix Pulzone’s registration for the draft card, 1918. Photo courtesy of Ancestry)

Pulzone died on September 29, 1933 in Byberry, Pennsylvania, while his family still lived in Alexandria. His cause of death, interestingly enough, was “general paralysis of the insane.” Upon further review, I found that there was a mental institution in Byberry where he must have died. Unfortunately, there is not much information on the life of Pulzone leading up to his death. This could be due to the fact of his mental illness.


(Death certificate of Felix Pulzone. Photo courtesy of Ancestry)

Pulzone was one of many workers of the world, who brought his family over from Italy in hopes of financial gain, maybe to return home one day. However, his wife and children lived in the same house in Alexandria seven years after his death[5], so it is most likely the Pulzone family came to the United States to stay..

[1]: Donna Gabaccia, Italy’s Many Diasporas (London: UCL Press, 2000), 60.

[2]: 1920 United States Federal Census, accessed October 10, 2016,

[3]: Ibid.

[4]: Ibid.

[5]: 1940 United States Federal Census, accessed October 10, 2016,

John Crockford: A Standout English Immigrant

Using the Voting Viva Voce website,, the percentage of English immigrants, who voted either for the Democratic or Opposition ticket, were nearly equal in Alexandria, Virginia in 1859. Of the 109 English immigrant men, only 34 men were either eligible to vote or chose to vote.[1] The low turn out rate for voters was reiterated in the book, Invisible Immigrants, in which Charlotte Erickson declares that English immigrants “showed little interest for participating in government.”[2] Most English immigrants traveled to the United States to escape economic stagnation and an overbearing government apparatus; they wanted as little government intervention in their day-to-day lives.

By studying patterns in voting habits in 1860, I was able to figure out two things. First, English immigrant men living in Alexandria were almost evenly split between the two parties on the 1859 ticket. 44% of men who voted chose the Democratic nominees, while 50% voted for the Opposition candidates. [3]


Map from Voting Viva Voce

For the English immigrant men, as well as most other groups of voters, the general trend was that richer citizens tended to vote for the Opposition party, while the Democratic voters were significantly poorer. In 1859, many more Opposition voters owned or rented slaves compared to the Democratic voters.

There was one Democratic voter that stood out from the rest of the voters in the party.  John Crockford was born in England in May 1840.[4] When Crockford was 22 years old, he and his young wife, Ellen, boarded a ship named “President” in London to come to New York City.[5]


New York Passenger Lists (


1860 U.S. Federal Census (

As written in the 1860 U.S. Census, Crockford’s total estate was $60,000.[6] He was one of the richest English immigrants in Alexandria, as well as the richest recorded Democratic voter in this group.  As a slave owner, he might have particularly invested in the Democratic party.


(Courtesy of Voting Viva Voce)

While it is difficult to pinpoint why exactly Crockford voted for Democratic candidates when others voted for the Opposition, he proves to be a very interesting man to research. He obviously was a very successful railroad contractor and made plenty of money. According to Erickson, cultural differences between English and Americans “were often masked by language similarities [7].” One can assume that if Crockford was not English, he likely would not have been as successful as he was if he emigrated from another country. Because of the similarities between English and American cultures, Crockford was able to get far in his job and make a good living.

[1]: Don DeBats, “Social Groups in Alexandria, males born in United Kingdom,” Voting Viva Voce, accessed September 24, 2016,

[2]: Charlotte Erickson, Invisible Immigrants: The Adaption of English and Scottish Immigrants in Nineteenth-century America (Coral Gables, FL: U of Miami, 1972), 30.

[3]: Don DeBats, “Social Groups in Alexandria, males born in United Kingdom,” Voting Viva Voce, accessed September 24, 2016,

[4]: 1860 U. S. Census (Population Schedule), Alexandria, Virginia, sheet no. 24, John Crockford, line 24, digital image, accessed September 24, 2016,

[5]: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897, John Crockford, line 39, digital image, accessed September 24, 2016,

[6]: 1860 U. S. Census (Population Schedule), Alexandria, Virginia, sheet no. 24, John Crockford, line 24, digital image, accessed September 24, 2016,

[7]: Erickson, 3.