Voces del Pueblo | Hispanic Voices

Friday, September 28, 2007; Page WE30

The Washington area is rapidly changing its colors, sounds, flavors and lifestyles. Today, it's not unusual to hear the beats of reggaeton and salsa at popular nightclubs. And it's not surprising to find someone saying "hola" or "gracias" -- with an English accent.

Hispanics in Washington, who have their roots in Latin America, the Caribbean and Spain, are building a common language. They are discovering words and traditions unknown to them. Salvadoran pupusas and Mexican tamales are no longer unfamiliar to the palates of people from Chile or Peru.

What is happening to Hispanics is similar in some ways to the melting-pot phenomenon in the 1800s when European immigrants flooded American shores. Although some traditions remain unique to individual groups, others blend. The diverse groups are becoming one -- simply Hispanic.

And every day in the region, the different peoples of Hispanic origin are letting everyone else in on their common language. Nationally, one in eight of us is a Spanish-speaker. With more than 608,000 Hispanic residents in Maryland, the District and Northern Virginia, the influence of Hispanic music, food, dance and art is visible all around -- from construction sites and schools to concert halls and houses of government. That is especially true during Hispanic Heritage Month, which is running from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.

Luz Lazo spoke to the stirrers of this new melting pot about their heritage, culture and tradition. Their stories are as unique as their countries, but in their pride, they speak with one voice.

Photographer Alfredo Duarte Pereira captured their faces.

Rosa Roldán-Torres, Police Officer

Antonia Peña, Domestic Worker

Danilo Mejía, Restaurant Owner

Septime Webre, Artistic Director of the Washington Ballet

Julio Rey de Castro, Artist

Adrián Herrera, Construction Worker

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