Reading Highlight: Salvadorans in Suburbia

For my next reading highlight, I’ll be discussing Salvadorans in Suburbia by Sarah Mahler, an overview of the Salvadoran immigrant experience in the United States, particularly in suburban areas rather than urban or rural ones. El Salvador’s position in the Caribbean region and relationship with 1990s United States immigration policy make this book a valuable supplement to my research. The book was published in 1995, providing valuable insight to the immigration discussion at the time. 

In the 1990s, the United States was experiencing a higher influx of immigrants due to events abroad leaving many migrants displaced. The Salvadoran Civil War, which Mahler attributes to social and economic inequality (Mahler, 26) left many asylees in need of refuge, many of which sought residence in the United States. However, economic opportunities for Salvadoran immigrants were limited, with many working multiple, low paying, service-based jobs in order to provide care for their families (Mahler, 62). The family unit is especially important for finding these jobs, as many Salvadoran immigrants sought opportunities through their family connections rather than by sending resumes to potential employers (Mahler, 70). For many immigrants, the low-wages of their jobs served as a segue into further labor exploitation. 

Mahler also comments on the relationship between the home and the family. In order to save money, many Salvadoran immigrants lived in crowded apartments with non-relatives. One specific Salvadoran immigrant told Mahler that he has separated the idea of “home” from his house, but rather affiliates home with his family (Mahler 84).



Mahler, Sarah. 1995. Salvadorans in Suburbia. Needham Heights, Massachusetts: Allyn and Bacon.

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