Roads to Diversity
— Adams Morgan Heritage Trail —
This is the heart of Washington's Latino community. Once centered here and in nearby Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights, the community now extends throughout the region.
As early as the 1910s, the Mexican, Ecuadoran, Cuban, and Spanish embassies clustered nearby on 16th Street. Spanish-speaking diplomats and staff called this area home and often remained after their terms ended. In the 1950s, political turmoil and economic hardship brought Puerto Ricans and Cubans, followed later by South and Central Americans-particularly Salvadorans and Nicaraguans.
Latinos built dynamic cultural and business communities held together by bonds of food and language. By the 1970s, the Ontario Theater showed Spanish-language films (later the rock band U2 played there) and Manuel's Latino disco was a hot night spot. The Omega restaurant thrived and small groceries including La Sevillana and El Gavilan offered familiar foods and gossip.
With growth came leaders such as the Puerto Rican, Carlos Rosario, who lobbied for city services and recognition. In 1970, Latinos organized the Hispanic Heritage Festival, which attracted thousands, serving notice that Latinos had arrived. The city responded in 1976 by opening the Office of Latino Affairs. The popular Hispanic Festival moved to the National Mall in 1989.
As you walk this block, you'll see service organizations that began in 1960 when the ecumenical Church of the Savior opened Potter's House, a pioneering coffeehouse and religious center. Since then its ministries have grown: Jubilee Housing, Servant Leadership School, Columbia Road Health Services, Family Place, Jubilee Jobs, Joseph's House, Patricia M. Sitar Center for the Arts, and others.
The enormously popular Hispanic Festival in Kalorama Park, below, 1980. At left, the Costa Rican float, 1987.
The Cuban, Spanish, and Mexican embassies, clockwise from above, on 16th St., were an early source of Hispanic influence.
Evening at the Potter's House in 1960.
Latin American films at the Ontario Theater in 1969.