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Southern California's dual citizens see little conflict

September 11, 2008 | 11:16 am

Salvador Gomez Gochez was 25 when he first came to Los Angeles with $3 in his pocket and painful memories of his Salvadoran homeland torn apart by repression and war, reports Teresa Watanabe.

Working his way up from a parking lot attendant to a manager, he learned English, bought a home, volunteered for a Salvadoran community organization and became a U.S. citizen, grateful to the country he says saved his life.

But Gomez Gochez, now 54, also retained his Salvadoran citizenship. Now, as a dual citizen, he has made the dramatic decision to return to his impoverished hometown in El Salvador and run for mayor after nearly three decades away. His hope: to revive his town's agricultural base with his U.S. contacts and empower the villagers with U.S. practices of participatory democracy.

As international business, travel and communications explode, a growing number of nations are allowing dual citizenship, and more immigrants are claiming it. Some, like Gomez Gochez, aim to use their bilingual and bicultural experiences to infuse their homelands with U.S. values and strengthen bonds between both countries.

But the trend is also stirring some unease.

Read more about Americans with dual citizenship here.

Image: Mario Fuentes poses at outside of Trinity Episcopal Church that hosts his L.A.-based community organization. Fuentes, an immigrant from El Salvador, is a middle-class homeowner, fluent English speaker and labor and community organizer. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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