Chirilagua is a city in the department of San Miguel – a south-eastern region of El Salvador.

Chirilagua is also the nickname of a city in the state of Virginia in the United States.

How did this happen?

Apparently so many inhabitants of the original city in El Salvador immigrated to this area between Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, (which has also been nicknamed “Arlandia”), that it became known as Chirilagua. I drove through recently to check it out. The area seems to be a few blocks of mixed residential and business. A few of the businesses even had “Chirilagua” in their name: Chirilagua Unisex Hair Salon, Chirilgua Arlandia Apartments, and Chirilagua Pollo & Steak.

It seemed like every single person on the street was Salvadoran – Salvadorans running errands, Salvadorans walking with a baby in a stroller, and many Salvadorans sitting outside talking on patios, balconies, steps, and street corners. (This is something I like to see since most of gringo suburbia stays indoors.)

Arlandia Chrilagua Apartments
Chirilagua Pollo & Steak
Chirilagua Unisex Hair Salon
Residents of Chirilagua, Virginia

As I looked at all these Chirilguans and descendents of Chirilguans, I began to wonder how many years ago the first one set out for the United States and settled here? Maybe fleeing the civil war during the 1980’s, he decided to immigrate here. He chose Washington D.C., the nation’s capital but finds a house to rent not too far away in Virginia. Once he finds work, he calls home to his brother and tells him to come. His brother comes, and calls home to tell their cousin what a great place it is. Pretty soon, dozens of family members have come, word spreads, and little by little, thousands from this same town almost two thousand miles away, make their way here.

Who knows how it really happened, but it’s fun to imagine.


  1. Que lindo! It’s always interesting to think why immigrants settle in certain places. And Virginia is so far from El Salvador! Tenemos muchos salvadoreños en Houston, pero el clima es similar, es muy cerca, etc. Tambien me encanta estar en una colonia en que la gente estan fuera, You’re right, its so nice compared to suburban neighbors who don;t know each other!

    • That was one thing I loved about El Salvador – all the people outside… I’m kind of a hypocrite though because I love the air conditioning and being indoors. I always say that I would go outside if there was more going on but who knows. I like to people watch and did spend time sitting on the stoop when we went to ES last time…. In our American suburban neighborhood there’s nothing to see though – except the occasional jogger or person walking their dog, and they usually have an i-pod in their ears and don’t say “hello” LOL

      I get annoyed when Suegra makes this observation and says Americans are unfriendly because of it – but coming from a place like ES, it would seem that way.

  2. So interesting! My husband’s family lives in Virginia and Maryland and we went to visit about 5 years ago. I had never seen so many Salvadoran people! (I havn’t been to El Salvador yet). It was really cool. We live on the other side of the nation in Oregon. Both my husband and I wouldn’t care to live there but it is fun to visit.

    • I guess I take for granted how many Salvadorans are in the area. I swear wherever we go out to eat, Suegra will hunt down and find at least one Salvadoran working at the restaurant – doesn’t matter what kind of restaurant. We went for Japanese sushi/hibachi and the guy who poured our water, Suegra eyed him for a second and then asked where he was from. Of course, he answered El Salvador. lol … She did the same thing a couple weeks ago at an Italian restaurant with the bus girl who was clearing a nearby table.

  3. hahahahaha…que comico.

    Sabes que en El Salvador hay un pueblo que se llama Berlin? (igualito a la ciudad Alemana). Resulta que le pusieron asi en honor an un Sr. Aleman que vivio alli por mucho tiempo.

      • Usulutan!!! De donde es mi familia Materna! Tambien hay un pueblo que se llama California! Rodeado de puros cafetales! Desconozco la razón por la cual le llemaron así pero no creo que sea por Arnord the Governator!!!!

      • Cabal como dijo Claudia, esta en Usulutan.

        Tambien me han contado que hay un canton en Tejutepeque (de donde viene mucha de mi familia) que se llama “Hollywood” pero nunca lo he confirmado.

  4. Que buena onda. Mi mama y su familia es de Chirilagua (Umanzor y Cruz). My mom tells me that in the 60s a lot of Chirilaguans moved to El Cuco (a small beach town where I was born) because there were more business opps. Sure enough, my grandparents were one of the first to set up a store en la mera entrada de El Cuco.

    Eran chancheros ellos, desde que vivian en Chirilagua, destasaban carne y vendian. Business took off when they got to El Cuco because it’s a tourist-y town and lots of people came to visit especially during Semana Santa. My uncles later became fishermen. Life was awesome in the 70s.

    I lot of people still walk from Chirilagua to El Cuco all the time pa bañar en la playa. Chirilagua is a pretty little town though – tienen bastante arboles de fruta y estan renovando las calles.

    I need to take myself to Virginia! Not that many people here in Houston, too hot maybe. :)

    Tiene razon el Chele, Berlin, haha… Tambien hay un pueblito que le han puesto Kosovo.

    • LOL, now I want to visit Chirilagua, El Salvador so I can do a part II of the post. It would be fun to interview people of the town and show them photos of Chirilagua, Virginia. Maybe I’d get to the bottom of who came first! There’s got to at least be a slightly fictional legend? .. hee hee…

      Too bad San Miguel is so far south. I don’t think I’ll have enough time for that since I’ll be in San Salvador and Chalate.

      Thanks for sharing this, Alex. (And Kosovo, El Salvador. Love it. LOL.)

      • Part II would be awesome! I’m going to bug mom & tios about it — maybe they have the inside scoop and I can report back to you. :) Son bien cuenteros ellos!

        Tenes que ir a San Miguel pa gozar de una sopita de garrobo, lol. JK, JK! Last time I went I was on a mission to taste the legendary sopa de garrobo, like a true Migueleño. On my way to El Cuco two dudes hopped out the bushes con una pareja de garrobos para vender. Los tenian maniados a los pobres y estaban vivos todavia. Bueno, al verlos se me quito la gana, me dio lastima… los compre y los fui a soltar a la montaña!

        Have fun, Traci! Take pictures!

    • ALEX… naciste en El Cuco!!!! Nosotros teníamos casa ahi! Pase los mejores años de mi vida en esa playa, comiendo chiquirines con arroz, sacando almejas a las 3 de la tarde, bailando en las lunadas con música de la Chanchona.
      Me muero por regresar!

      • Wow! Si, naci en El Cuco en el 77! Nos venimos pa los Estados en el 80 pero mis abuelos quedaron. Ya falleserion, talvez los conocistes, Eulalio Cruz y Maria Umanzor? Mi papa es buen amigo con Noldo Masariego que vive a la entrada.

        OMG! I can’t believe it! Que buena onda, Claudia! La Chanchona, lol, yep, they were mentioned a lot growing up. The Cruz family is huge–total tengo 5 tias y 5 tios, seguro que haz de conocer alguno de ellos.

        Chiquirines con arroz, FTW! Mi favorito son los CURILES! Oh, man…ahora si, tengo ganas de ir de nuevo y pasarla comiendo cocos y empanadas de yuca frita con curtido. =) I LOVE EL CUCO!

      • ALEX: no no conocí a nadie de las personas que mencionas. La verdad es que yo poco iba al pueblo (los grown ups iban, los niños nos quedabamos jugando en la casa y playa). Nuestra casa estaba como a unos 15 minutos (en carro) del pueblo, antes del estero. Lastimosamente durante la guerra nos tomaron la casa y se puso muy peligroso. EL Cuco y El Espino son playas verdaderamente bellas.
        Y que es eso que no sabes que son los Chiquirines!!! Google it! Son riquísimos!

      • Claudia: I *do* know what chiquirines are – son muy buenos en arroz. :) What I meant to say was Chiquirines con arroz, for the win! Lol.

        Si, verda… son bonitas las playas. Me gusta mucho playita las flores. Lastima lo de la querra.

        Salud. Bendiciones!

  5. Tracy, there may be an interesting story buried in here (or one to make up ; ) Quizás fue una “jovencita,” a young woman who should be credited for bringing salvadoreños so far from home. I’d like to think that. Interesting datos, I want to know more! ; D

  6. Hey you! My parents son de San Miguel no chirilagua pero mi madrina si! LOL Anyways I actually used to live in Arlandria back in the day lol Your suspicion of how it happened I’m sure is close porque en caso de mi daddy fue similar primero vivio en DC naci yo y parece que a los dos años se mudaron a chirilagua, eventually el resto de la familia…they actually closed down where we lived for remodeling purposes lol I think I was going to start 3rd grade then (I’m 34 now) It has grown a lot more since then. Gracias por traerme recuerdos!! :)

    • That totally made my day! So nice that this post meant something more personal to you and it makes me smile that I unintentionally gave that to you.

  7. En el articulo mencionas de cuando fue la fecha de los primeros Chirilaguences vinieron para esta area, hay personas que salieron de Chirilagua alrededor del año 67. Yo llegue a Arlandria en 1983, a la edad de 9 años. I was born in Chirilagua. I’ve been thinking for quite sometime about writing a short book about the meaning of leaving Chirilagua and settling in this area.

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