Dissertation Defense: Patrick Scallen

Candidate Name: Patrick Scallen

Major: History

Advisors: John Tutino, Ph.D. and Joseph McCartin, Ph.D.

Title: "The Bombs that Drop in El Salvador Explode in Mt. Pleasant:" From Cold War Conflagration to Immigrant Struggles in Washington, DC, 1970-1995

This dissertation charts the rise of metropolitan Washington, DC’s largest immigrant population from its roots in the post-war international economy through the end of the Salvadoran civil war (1980-1992). It traces Salvadorans as they migrated from a country wracked by economic disparity, social inequality, dashed democratic hopes, and civil war to the capital of the foreign nation most responsible for the conditions they fled. Part of the original Latino immigrant community in the District of Columbia that emerged as Washington became the capital of world capitalism following World War II, Salvadorans had carved out a space for themselves as a small but notable ethnic minority when civil war erupted, displacing hundreds of thousands of their countryfolk. Those who survived the journey north and made it to the United States were subsequently denied refugee status by the Reagan administration, forced to take the lowest-paying menial jobs, and regularly discriminated against because of their language and racial characteristics.

The study follows Salvadorans as they struggled to survive and craft community in the nation’s capital during the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s. It analyzes US immigration policies and assesses their impact on Salvadorans in DC, particularly on those without legal documentation. It then moves on to assess how exiled Salvadoran opposition members forged links with North American religious leaders, politicians, and community members to found organizations and agencies that protected Salvadoran immigrants from deportation and fought for their human rights. It probes the relationship between Washington, DC’s burgeoning Latino population and its African American majority, examining the tensions on the street, in schools, and at city hall. The dissertation then shifts to assess the events and impact of urban unrest that rocked DC’s multiethnic neighborhood of Mt. Pleasant in early 1991, sparked by a policewoman’s shooting of a Salvadoran man. It closes with an assessment of the aftermath of the Mt. Pleasant riots in the broader context of immigration and urban life.

Monday, July 22, 2019 at 11:00am to 1:00pm

Edward B. Bunn, S.J. Intercultural Center, 662
37th and O St., N.W., Washington

Event Type

Academic Events, Dissertation Defense


Georgetown College, History, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences



Open to the public and the press?


Event Contact Name

Carolina Madinaveitia

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