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To buy it, Delgado got a loan from a Yakima nonprofit called Rural Community Development Resources. Founded in 1991, the organization uses federal grants to help an array of budding Latino entrepreneurs—but only ones who provide identification indicating they are legal residents or citizens, according to RCDR founder Luz Gutierrez.
In time, Gutierrez's organization dispensed a second loan to Delgado to start a bakery next door to the laundromat, which led him to start two more bakeries in Harrah (not so profitable and eventually closed) and Moxee.
Delgado's bakeries offer the oversized pastries favored by Mexicans: fruitcakes, cream-filled "tacos" (resembling rolled crepes), fruit turnovers that in Mexico would never hold apples but which in Washington make use of the local bounty.
Delgado's 20-year-old son, also named Antonio, works full time at the laundromat in Wapato. And though he plans to re-enter school soon, he declares—even out of earshot of his parents—his intention to come right back to Wapato when he's done. "Everyone's family," he says of the town.
And often that's just about literally true. Mayor Jesse Farias, 65, is surrounded in Wapato by nine of his 11 siblings. The grandchild of Mexican immigrants who grew up in a section of town then called "Tortilla Flats," he signed up for the military during the Vietnam War. "I thought there had to be a better life," he explains in Wapato's one-story, brick city hall.
There was—at least for a while, he says, but he eventually lost both legs in the war. Out of the military and consigned to a wheelchair, he moved to Olympia. He worked for many years at the state's Employment Security department, then received two gubernatorial appointments, one of which made him the state director of the Department of Veteran Affairs.
In 1999 he returned to Wapato, where he became mayor in 2004.
Why did he trade the state capital for a town one-tenth its size? "This is my home," he says. "I'll always come back."
Similarly, Lorenzo Alvarado, son of a Mexican farm worker and a school principal in nearby Yakima, counts five of his seven siblings as neighbors in Wapato. His wife, a Mexican native, has family in town too.
Every weekend, Alvarado says, there's some kind of family event: "a barbecue, a birthday party, a quinceañera."
"All the culture I need is here," he says.
Flores, of WSU, says he believes immigrants' ongoing love affair with the valley has kept its housing market afloat. As real-estate values in the rest of the country tanked, the valley's stayed relatively stable. Local home prices even rose during one of the worst points of the recession last summer. At the time, ABC's Good Morning America (citing figures from Seattle's Zillow.com) referred to Yakima County as one of the best places in the nation to sell a home.
And to buy one, too. The median price for houses (excluding new construction) is $147,000, according to WSU's Washington Center for Real Estate Research. Those prices have been accessible to many of the region's immigrants, says realtor Hernandez, who estimates that his clientele is 90 percent Hispanic.
Paul Regimbal, president of the Catholic Credit Union in Yakima, says that his business is targeting Latino customers as part of its strategic plan for growth. He notes that many Catholic Hispanics naturally gravitate toward his company, which was originally set up as a cooperative for Catholics in the valley but now serves all faiths. The credit union builds on that affinity by advertising in Spanish-language newspapers and TV and radio stations.