Institute of World Affairs

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Experiences of the Subsequent Generations: A Salvadorian-American Conversation

Adrienne Castellón, Program Associate, IWA
Margaret Smith, Director of Trauma Healing and Community Resilience, IWA

  1. Executive Summary

This pilot project convened a group of subsequent generation Salvadorian-Americans (2nd generation and 1st generation who came over as children/adolescents) with strong ties to community work to discuss and better understand the experiences and needs of the Salvadorian-American and Salvadorian community in the DC Metropolitan area.

Needs identified by the discussion group sessions included: increase access to opportunity, destigmatize and promote mental health, and strengthen a sense of community and identity.

Participants shared a concern about the poverty narrative that dominates the portrayal of the Salvadorian community and functions as a self-fulfilling prophecy, reducing expectations of what is possible. They underlined the need for a different, positive narrative that highlights accomplishments and presents stories of success.

They also emphasized that the refugee history of the previous generation points to a legacy of inherited trauma that is still being negotiated.

The group brainstormed projects that could make a difference.  All agreed that the idea of a cross-generational oral history and art project held particular promise since engaging in artistic endeavors can provide a socially acceptable way to express and process trauma.

The proposed follow-up project would consist of oral recordings, written accounts, or artistic renderings of personal stories from first and subsequent generation Salvadorians, particularly in the context of emigration/immigration, the civil war, and acculturation in American society.

This project will piece together a history of collective experiences and exhibit them as an attempt to help heal fragmentation, preserve history, foster shared identity and heritage, and create a more positive narrative for this community going forward.

  1. Project Background

The “Experiences of the Subsequent Generations – A Salvadorian-American Conversation” was conceived as a pilot project that would explore the sense of identity, the aspirations, and the needs of second-generation Salvadorian-Americans living in the metropolitan Washington, DC region. The pilot project was carried out in a discussion group format and endeavored to encourage honest dialogue about how participants viewed their experiences, how they saw their current status and, as consequence, choices made about the future.

The project was supervised by Margaret Smith, Director of Trauma Healing and Community Resilience at the Institute of World Affairs (IWA).  Adrienne Castellón, IWA Program Associate, served as the project manager and discussion facilitator. 

Dr. Michael Lund Presents Findings in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

IWA Senior Associate, Dr. Michael Lund, gave two talks recently at a high-level conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The conference was attended by two hundred influential Ethiopians from the government, political parties and civil society. The conference was held to discuss how Ethiopia can build on the Prime Minister’s initial reforms to transition from its top-down political system to a more pluralistic and stable democracy. Lund presented findings from his recent research on how multi-ethnic developing countries can avoid the possible hazards of attempted political transitions, such as political violence, repression, civil war, mass atrocities, and state breakdown. The new President of Ethiopia, Sahle-Work Zewde (the first woman to hold that position), gave the opening speech, and former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, was the conference keynote speaker. Several follow-up activities are planned to build momentum behind the reform effort. About this unusual opportunity, Lund noted, “I’m very grateful I could apply my research on peaceful transitions to help this great and beautiful country of 103 million people at this immensely critical moment in its history!”

IWA President Hrach Gregorian and Senior Associate George Irani present study on Lebanon’s displaced at ISA meeting in Toronto

IWA President HG and Senior Associate GI present study on Lebanon's displaced at ISA meeting in Toronto.

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