Thursday, December 25, 2008
Pamela Constable writes for the Washington Post:
A year ago, Yunis Sandivar's travel agency in Arlington County was doing a brisk business in round-trip holiday tickets to Bolivia, Peru, Guatemala and El Salvador. This season, she says, those ticket sales have fallen by 40 percent compared with last December, and a surprising number of customers are buying one-way tickets home -- temporarily giving up on the U.S. economy after years of legal residency.
"Normally at this time, we are full of people, but just look around. The office is empty. We would not survive except for the one-way tickets," Sandivar said. "Our community is facing a very crude reality right now. People have lost their houses, their jobs, their businesses. They are not going home to see their families -- they are going home until the situation here improves. It is going to be a very sad Christmas."
Among the estimated half-million Latin American immigrants in the Washington region, Christmas has long been a season of sentimental and physical reconnection. Extended families are separated by relatively short distances, united by Christian traditions and accustomed to exchanging gifts -- shipped by Hispanic-owned courier services -- including electric appliances and children's party clothes.
This year, however, the area's Latino communities have been hit hard by the national economic slump, with the construction trade devastated by the financial crisis, service industries laying off workers and immigrant small-businesses owners hurt because their customers are without work. Click here for the rest of the story.