WATSONVILLE — The Watsonville City Council agreed Tuesday to become a sister city with San Pedro Masahuat in El Salvador as a way to acknowledge the growing Salvadoran population in the county.
According to Hector Perla, a Latin American and Latino Studies professor at UC Santa Cruz, about 5,000 Central Americans reside in Santa Cruz County, 70 percent of which are Salvadoran.
In March, Perla, along with other Salvadoran Americans, formed the Salvadoran Committee of Santa Cruz County, a group that he said gives a voice to the underrepresented community.
"The Salvadoran community hasn't been here that long," he said. "We are one of the newest communities."
Salvadorans in the United States are a relatively young population, Perla said. Many immigrated to the country during El Salvador's civil war from 1980-1992.
Due to the civil war, Perla said many Salvadorans fear government, and once they came to the U.S., they identified themselves as Mexican because it would be "easier" to fit in.
At the local level, becoming a sister city with San Pedro Masahuat would "encourage Salvadorans living in fear or isolation to come out of the shadows," Perla said, adding that it would also bring awareness to the history and culture of the community.
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