In 1982, a joint venture between Plenty International (a commune on 16th St NW) and CARECEN (Central American Refugee Center) launched a joint venture to provide bilingual medical care to the undocumented immigrants who were pouring into DC (for further information, see Patrick Scallen’s dissertation). A few months after initial efforts to provide care, La Clinica Del Pueblo began its work from a permanent space in the Wilson Center.
Those who worked at the clinic understood their clients on a deep cultural and personal level—since many of the staff, volunteers, and patients at La Clinica had faced strenuous journeys to the U.S. as they fled poverty and war in their home countries. The fear of deportation, the problem of finding steady work, and the trauma of war assailed many immigrants in the surrounding community.
Medical professionals from both El Salvador and the U.S. worked tirelessly to provide quality care for their patients with individualized support and cultural sensitivity. Over the years, La Clinica Del Pueblo has expanded from a free, volunteer-run clinic into a multi-site organization across DC and Maryland. In addition to providing medical care, La Clinica Del Pueblo continuously serves the surrounding community, providing safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth, offering mental health services in schools, and continuing to advocate for the Latin American community in DC and beyond.
Chapter One by Marcia Bernbaum, “La Clinica del Pueblo: A Health Clinic by the People, for the People,” in Latinas Crossing Borders and Building Communities in Greater Washington: Applying Anthropology in Multicultural Neighborhoods. Edited by Raúl Sánchez Molina and Lucy M. Cohen. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2016.
Scallen, Patrick. (2019). "The Bombs That Drop in El Salvador Explode in Mount Pleasant": From Cold War Conflagration to Immigrant Struggles in Washington, DC, 1970–1995 (Order No. 27670053). Available from ProQuest Central; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global.