Some who had gathered for the Sunday morning soccer game on the field behind Pentagon City mall had brought re{acute}sume{acute}s along with their soccer balls. Others lugged trays of homemade Bolivian pastries under one arm and pages of job and housing listings under the other.

Every Sunday, hundreds of Bolivians gather at playing fields in Crystal City and South Arlington for a mix of socializing and sports. It has become a cherished weekend ritual for thousands in the area's Bolivian community. They play soccer, share advice about parenting, jobs and immigration law, or chat about Arlington's newest Bolivian restaurant.

The soccer games have become a sort of traveling community center, the social glue that helps bind Arlington's burgeoning Bolivian community -- easing their transition to life in the United States while providing them with a connection to their homeland.

"The reason we have the league is to make every Bolivian who comes over here feel like they are at home," said Felix Sandoval, president of the Arlington Bolivian Soccer League. "We have so many Bolivians in Arlington that it's become our second home . . . our place to do business and chat with friends for Bolivians everywhere."

Soccer is just one part of everyday life in Arlington's thriving Bolivian community -- one of a dozen such ethnic enclaves in the increasingly diverse Washington area. Falls Church has its Little Saigon. The District has its Little San Salvador. And Arlington now has its Little Cochabamba -- named for one of Bolivia's major cities.

Arlington's Bolivian population has soared in the past few years -- doubling since 1998. The influx has been fueled, in part, by Bolivians seeking jobs here, as economies in their home cities such as La Paz and Cochabamba have stalled. In fact, the Washington region is home to the largest Bolivian population in the United States, with the largest concentration living in Arlington.

It's a community that is rapidly rising into the middle class and trying to gain political and economic power while retaining its culture. Community leaders say it is particularly important for their children to remain connected to their roots. Bolivian children represent the largest immigrant group in the Arlington school system.

"We want our children to do well as Americans," said Natalia Salzar, principal of Escuela Bolivia, a Saturday school aimed at keeping Bolivian children connected with their homeland and fluent in Spanish. "But we also want them to enrich their Bolivian culture and keep their Spanish. We don't want them to forget."

Escuela Bolivia was started three years ago as a place where the children of immigrants -- and anyone else interested in Bolivian culture -- could learn the geography, music and language of Bolivia.

American and Bolivian flags wave in front of the school, held at Patrick Henry Elementary School. Api -- a purple corn drink native to the country -- is served alongside saltenas (pronounced sawl-TAY-nyahs), warm doughy pockets with juicy fillings of meat, olives, sugar and eggs.

The community's surging growth can also be seen in the fact that it has spawned not one but two Bolivian newspapers -- Bolivia Today and El Bolivariano -- both written and produced in Arlington. The publications cover education, cultural events, politics and other issues in the local community and back home in Bolivia.

And it can be observed at any one of the dozen Bolivian folkloric dance groups that have sprung up around the county in which adults, and children as young as 5, perform the moves of their ancestors.

Ties to the homeland are strong in the community. Some Arlington Bolivian restaurants are better known in Bolivia than they are here. Popular Bolivian singers fly here to play at local dance clubs on weekends -- such as the one at the Bolivian-owned San Antonio Grill at the Skyland Mall. Inside local schools and churches, students have Bolivian clubs and perform Bolivian music.

"When I was going to high school, I was eating Bolivian, I was living Bolivian and breathing Bolivian," said Arlington Bolivian activist Vanessa Cardenas. "I had Bolivian friends. I listened to Bolivian music. The big joke is that Washington-Lee High School should be renamed Simon Bolivar," she said, referring to the 19th-century South American liberator. "There are just so many Bolivians at the school. The community here is really growing."

Census data do not have a separate category for Latinos from Bolivia so it is difficult to determine exactly how many Bolivians live here. But some experts estimate that there are 60,000 to 100,000 Bolivians living in the Washington area. In any case, large numbers of Bolivians are choosing to settle in Arlington, a trend that began slowly in the late 1960s and '70s.

During this period, many middle- and upper-middle class Bolivians came to the area as students, fleeing political and economic upheaval, said Marie Price, a geography professor at George Washington University who is studying the Bolivian community. A second wave came during the 1980s, when even higher inflation hit the Bolivian economy.

"Many of the first immigrants in '60s and '70s called themselves pioneers, since there were so few here," Price said. "Then during the inflation in the '80s which saw prices rise 3,500 percent, many came to work in the booming hotel, catering and construction companies in Washington."

Part of Bolivia's economic crash was because of the decline in the silver and tin markets and then the mining markets -- dominant industries in the country. The economy also saw a downturn in the 1980s and very recently, in part because of the government's crackdown on the production of coca leaves, used for legal purposes -- tea and chewing gum -- and illegal ones -- cocaine.

With jobs scarce in the landlocked country, many middle-class, college-educated Bolivians started coming to Washington. Many chose Arlington because it had affordable housing and Metro service and was close to their jobs in the District. More recently, family reunification laws have made it easier for more Bolivians to come to the area and most settle with relatives here, at least at first.

Jorge G. Lozano came to the United States 29 years ago with just $900 and his luggage. He had studied electronic engineering in Bolivia but did not know English. Like many immigrants, he was forced to take a job that was below his skill level but paid the bills while he learned the new language. He worked as a dishwasher, then a waiter.

"I met my wife at that restaurant," Lozano said. "And we worked really hard when we first got here."

Today, Lozano works in electronic security, and his wife runs an imports store just steps from the White House. The shop sells wool sweaters and crafts from Bolivia. Lozano is also founder of the U.S. Bolivia Business Council, a group of about 15 Arlington business owners.

Lozano is working on giving the community a political voice. Currently, there are no Latino School Board or County Board members in Arlington.

"We need to take leadership in this area," said Lozano, who is active in the Republican Party and has met with elected officials from all over Northern Virginia. "We are not reinventing the wheel. We are doing what the Jews and the Italians did before us. But it's not always easy.

"Many of us are trying to become stable economically and we are trying to give some sense of community with ourselves," Lozano continued. "In order to govern others, you also have to govern yourself. But I think some of us will be ready soon, and we could represent all of the Hispanic people."

Concentrating those efforts in Arlington could be a smart move politically, Price said.

"They have the numbers to get a political voice," Price said. "There is a lot of interest, especially in the schools, and if Bolivians vote they could have influence."

Providing Bolivian residents information on how to vote and how to become citizens, along with giving them local news in Spanish, is one of the functions of the Bolivian newspapers, said Teresa Ustares, executive director of El Bolivariano.

"Our role is educational, since we want the Hispanic people to become successful in this country," said Ustares, whose 76-year-old father, Juan Jose Ustares, a journalist in Bolivia, writes most of the editorials.

The newspaper comes out about once a week and has a circulation of about 16,000. It also runs lists of the dozens of weekly cultural events, such as the popular folkloric dance groups.

Nora Garcia, a Bolivian immigrant who came here in 1972, said many of the dance troupes began as groups of friends getting together to socialize.

"We started as friendship circles for Bolivians -- just to have people to be with," she said. "And then we thought, let's do our culture's dances. Today we dance for the Cherry Blossom Festival and for the Fourth of July events and almost every weekend at local places in Arlington and Falls Church."

The colorful events feature 12 basic dances, and the performers wear traditional Bolivian costumes. Last week, the dancers were one of the highlights as Escuela Bolivia celebrated Bolivian Mother's Day -- which is May 27 in Bolivian culture.

"It was wonderful," said Emma Violand-Sanchez, who came to Arlington with the first wave of Bolivian immigrants. She is head of the Arlington school system's High Intensity Language Training program -- known as ESL in other school districts.

Violand-Sanchez and others praised Arlington Superintendent Robert G. Smith for his support of Escuela Bolivia and the Bolivian community. Violand-Sanchez was one of the school's founders.

"I think it's a wonderful resource for both Bolivians and for the community to learn about us," she said.

At the school, students sit in small classrooms and learn the music of Bolivia by strumming guitars and banging drums. In other classrooms, recent immigrants learn English and in still others, Americans study Spanish.

Charlene Salazar, 15, came to the United States at age 6. She said that she misses Bolivia and that she looks forward to going to the program every Saturday.

"It's a fun experience because you get study the rivers and mountains of Bolivia and meet other people from Bolivia and have fun at the same time," Charlene said. "It's nice to have both regular school and this."Maria Nela Mendoza, center, talks with teacher Augusto Wayar, right, at Escuela Bolivia, a weekend cultural school designed for Bolivian children.Music teacher Juan Pablo Osorio teaches tunes to Bolivian second-graders at Escuela Bolivia.Jamie Vargas owns Arlington's San Antonio Grill at the Skyland Mall.Above left, Wilder Valdimar plays with Cindy Tottio, 2. Above right, John Soto, 20 months, wears the uniform of his favorite soccer team, Tiataco. Soccer games have become the social glue that helps bind Arlington's growing Bolivian community. The Bolivian population has doubled since 1998. Jorge G. Lozano, above, and daughter Fabiola Francisco, run two businesses. Vanessa Cardenas, at left, is a local Bolivian activist.