Adams Morgan Latino History Walking Tour

Adams Morgan in the '80s

Adams Morgan was the epicenter of DC Latino culture in the 1980s, as you will find out in this 60-minute guided tour.

The Unity Mural (pictured) just after it was painted in 1982. Photo courtesy of Ligia Williams.

Additional photos & videos provided by Hola Cultura, Rick Reinhard, Mary's Center, GALA Hispanic Theatre, and the DC Public’ Library’s Washingtoniana Collection.

Starting Point

Rabaut Park, Adams Morgan

(corner of 16th Street & Columbia Road NW)

Rabaut Park has had many other names given to it by the community.

Points of interest

The 16th Street Embassies first drew Latin American embassy workers to these neighborhoods nearly a century ago.


  • The Mexican Cultural Institute (pictured)
  • The Former Residence of the Spanish Ambassadors
  • The Ecuadoran Embassy
  • The Cuban Section

Community Spaces

El Gavilan (pictured), one of the few Latino stores that has remained in the neighborhood, will be on the left as we walk up Columbia Road to our next stop.


Latino landmarks across 16th Street, in Columbia Heights

  • Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church on 16th Street was one of the first churches to open its doors to Spanish-speaking parishioners, and is still one of the region’s largest Hispanic parishes today.
  • The former Wilson Center (now the Next Step charter school at Irving & 15th streets) was where many Latino community organizations got their start.
  • Bell Multicultural High School is still one of the city’s most Hispanic high schools.

Growing up in DC's "Latin American village"

Carmen Torruella Quander discusses growing up in Latino Adams Morgan.

Ontario Theatre

This theater once showed old Mexican movies that drew Latino audiences. Today it is a luxury condo building.

Nevertheless, Columbia Road is the Latino shopping, restaurants and going-out area, even today.


Points of interest: Zodiac Records & Unity Park


Zodiac Records was a well-known store specializing in Latin American music


Today it's a nail salon.

Dominican youth living in the neighborhood once made Unity Park their hangout. Later it hosted a Friday outdoor food market like the outdoor markets found in Latin America.

18th Street & Columbia Road

La Sevillana (in the photo) was one of DC’s first Latino stores. People came from all over the Washington area to buy food from their home countries. It was located on 18th, just a few doors down from where McDonald’s is today.

Not only was this area DC’s first Latino shopping center, the city's first Latin American festivals were also held around the 18th Street & Columbia Road intersection.


In the Rick Reinhard photo above, the late community leader Carlos Rosario (far right) other Latino community leaders march in the annual parade that took place in Adams Morgan for many years.

Artist, muralist and musician Carlos Arrien

On the first Latino Festivals in DC

“Un Pueblo sin murales...” street mural

DC’s oldest still-standing mural was painted in the late 1970s.

It's name translates into

 “A people without murals is a demoralized people”

Carlos "Caco" Salazar

The artist explains how this mural got its name

Murales Today

Adams Morgan had many Latino murals. But muralism has changed over last few decades. Street art is less likely to advance an activist cause today, and more likely to be used as advertisement. Such is the case of the Shop Small mural currently on 18th Street. 

Lost Mural: After the Comet

This Jorge Somarriba mural is one of many DC Latino murals that have been destroyed in recent decades as the District has been redeveloped. It was once located right down the street from the shopping mural.

GALA Hispanic Theatre


It's now a restaurant


But it was once the GALA Hispanic Theatre


GALA has operated out of the former Tivoli Theater in Columbia Heights since 2005.

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Points of Interest

The Latin American Youth Center is among the many Latino organizations once based in Adams Morgan.

Unity Mural

Scheduled for demolition

Painted in the summer of 1982, by a group of Latino and African American youth. Pepco now plans to demolish it.

Cultura is trying to save it. If you would like to learn more, contact us at

Ligia Williams, co-lead artist of the Unity Mural

On the mural-making process

This concludes our tour. 

Before you go, please fill out our Survey Monkey audience feedback questionnaire and let us know what you liked and what we could improve for the next tour.


Thank you/Gracias!

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