Armenians in Glendale, CA
There is an old story that used to be told regarding Armenians in the Boston/Watertown area, which given Glendale's huge Armenian population these days, can probably be applied to this city: An Armenian from the US travels to the old country. "Where are you from?" he is asked. "From Los Angeles," he replies. Blank stares. He tries again. "From Glendale," he says. "Ah!" they say with a smile. "Of course! Glendale!"
Early Days: It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when the first Armenian settled in Glendale. The city was incorporated in 1906 and a 1923 local survey shows the city as having 20 Armenian residents consisting of 5 families (Yeretzian 38). (An interesting article on one of these early Armenian families can be found on the Glendale News-Press website.) At the time, Pasadena (about 10 miles east of Glendale) and Los Angeles (about 10 miles south of Glendale) contained a much larger number of Armenian residents, 100 and 2,000 respectively. Glendale began to see an influx of Armenians during the late 1970s and well into the 1980s following civil wars in the copiously Armenian populated Iran and Lebanon. In 1975 came the first Armenian church of the city—St. Mary's Armenian Apostolic Church, and in 1978, with only 7 members, the Homenetmen Ararat chapter was established in the city. The Armenian population of the city continued to grow well into the 1990s when many Armenians migrated to the city after the fall of the USSR and worsening conditions of the new Armenian republic. Yet another factor that may have contributed to the city's ever-growing Armenian population during the 1980s and 1990s is the fact that from 1983 to 1991 the governor of the state of California, George Deukmejian, was of Armenian decent. Additionally, another Armenian, Larry Zarian, served on the city of Glendale's City Council from 1983 to 1999, and was elected Mayor for three (non-consecutive) terms during these years. Immigrants, and especially Armenian immigrants, tend to colonize around areas where there are others of their ethnic background nearby. Having Armenians in the local political system may have certainly had its appeal.
Today: Glendale contains the largest Diaspora of Armenians anywhere in the world—in fact, it is the second largest Armenian community in the world, after Yerevan. The 30 square miles that make up the city is home to nearly 200,000 residents, of which 80,000 are estimated to be of Armenian decent (Covarrubias). It is home to numerous Armenian churches, shops, restaurants, and businesses. Take a walk in any of the city's streets and it's hard not to run into an Armenian owned establishment or to hear passersbys speaking their native Armenian tongue. Glendale is a microcosm of the Diaspora: Armenians from all walks of life and from all around the world can be found here. Over the last few decades, Glendale's strong Armenian community has flourished on many levels. It has produced authors, artists, theater and dance groups, newspapers and magazines, organizations, and various businesses.
In 2005, for the first time in Glendale's history, Armenians won majority three of the five seats on the City Council. In 2006, in response to community interest, the Glendale Unified School District, which runs all of the public schools of the city, introduced Armenian language into its dual immersion program at one elementary school in the city. The goal of this program is to develop bilingualism and biliteracy with academic language in two languages (English and Armenian). Under this program, half of the instructional school day is taught in Armenian and the other half in English. In 2010 the program was expanded to include a second elementary school.
In 2014, Armenian-American Zareh Sinanyan was appointed as city Mayor, followed by Ara Najarian in 2015.
The city is also home to about half a dozen Armenian newspapers, a handful of Armenian TV stations, and dozens of social, educational, professional, and business related organizations geared towards the Armenian-American community of Glendale and nearby cities.