Washington The Latino Influence
The Latin American influence in Washington State is most notably seen in the state’s central region of the Yakima valley. The total population of Yakima County is approximately 231,586, of which 38.6 percent are of Latino origin. Towns in the Yakima valley, such as Pasco, Burien, and Mount Vernon, have a distinct Latin American influence. It is not unusual to walk through the streets of these towns and see Mexican restaurants, groceries, and bakeries, or to hear Spanish radio stations on the airwaves. More specifically, it is Wapato, Washington one of the oldest towns in the Yakima valley that is referred to as Mexican Town. Wapato is almost 85 percent Latin American, with a distinct Latin American culture that dominates the town’s atmosphere.
20 King County, in the western part of Washington, is another area where a strong Latin American influence has taken root, primarily in the state’s largest city, Seattle. Seattle’s Latin American population has grown from 8,000 in 1970 to 18,000 in 1990. In 2000 nearly 30,000 Latinos lived in Seattle, accounting for 5.28 percent of the total population. Latin American organizations in the Seattle area abound and address numerous Latin American issues, including access to health care, the arts, economic development, and business opportunities. The University of Washington at Seattle supports a Chicano Studies program with an emphasis on Latinos in the Pacific Northwest. Salsa clubs and art galleries with specific emphasis on Latinos from the Pacific Northwest can also be found in Seattle.