Workers of primarily but not exclusively Mexican descent in Western Washington carry out agricultural labor. Since the 1940s Washington State has been successful in recruiting Latino migrants to work in agricultural activities, as well as the manufacturing, service, and food processing sectors of Central Washington. Currently the area is home to first, second, and now third generation Latinos, and Hispanics have been the majority population of over twenty cities and small towns, and are the majority population in two counties in 2010. Although groups of Latinos physically reside in the communities of contemporary Central Washington, and have done so in some cases for generations, it may be argued that they have had minimal impact and left differing impressions on the cultural landscapes of the region.
Using various research tools including census data, fieldwork observation, government record analysis, and face-to-face interviews with business owners, seasonal migrants, and local residents, this project will examine issues of Latino Placemaking in twenty-one cities of Central Washington where Latinos constitute a majority. Within the analysis two cities are highlighted, Othello and Sunnyside, which demonstrate contrasting patterns of how Latino population growth, culture, identity, and sense of place has impacted the built environments, physical landscapes, and governing bodies of the communities. These two towns represent very different and distinctive patterns of Latino Placemaking in a region that has historically not embraced diversity. Finally, this study examines a site of cultural Placemaking, the Pasco flea market, and the ways that it provides a space for cross-cultural and pan-Latino interaction and community building. There are many opportunities in this region for city planners, social services and companies to reach out to the Latino demographic. Latino Placemaking offers city planners and community organizers a new direction to strengthen community engagement, create meaningful, inclusive, and healthy places for residents, as well as strengthen local economies of Central Washington.