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Ethnic Entrepreneurship and Latino Placemaking in Suburban Washington: The Case of Langley Park, Maryland Open Access

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Since the 1970s, the foreign-born population of the Washington, D.C. region has more than quadrupled, with the majority of immigrants settling directly in suburban areas. In contrast to culturally homogeneous urban ethnic enclaves and ghettos, Washington's immigrant population lives in semi-isolation from one another in diffuse residential neighborhoods. Displaying traits of heterolocalism, many of Washington's ethnic communities converge on ethnic businesses housed within aging suburban shopping centers. This thesis analyzes the "power of place" in structuring the economic and social actions of ethnic communities. First comparing the dispersal of Washington's ethnic grocery stores with the residential distribution of foreign-born individuals, it looks at the economic structure of ethnic groups across the region. A neighborhood-level case study of the ethnic grocery stores of Langley Park, Maryland, is part of a broader assessment of the significance of ethnic retail establishments within localities. An analysis of the aesthetic symbols, sounds and spatial configurations found in grocery store interiors feeds into a discussion of ethnic placemaking's role in creating meaningful cultural landscapes. The thesis ends by looking the structural forces that threaten to erase much of the existing landscape, and by assessing the New Urbanist redevelopment plans that may eliminate Langley Park's most significant shopping centers and apartment buildings.

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