Queen Sheba: about 1704 Broadway

The address at 1704 Broadway has always involved food, liquor or both. Queen Sheba occupies the same space as Virgin Sturgeon II and Jamaica House.

Morgan Ong
Morgan Ong  

Queen Sheba, 1704 Broadway


   Queen Sheba restaurant brings an East African flavor to a spot on Broadway that has nearly always offered up either food or drink, whether as a liquor store, tavern, landlocked branch of the Virgin Sturgeon II or Jamaica House restaurant.It is part of a continuum of hospitality for three quarters of a century. Its latest proprietor, Zion Taddese, comes from half a world away. 


   Ethiopians in Sacramento County

   In Sacramento, there is no “little Ethiopia,” no neighborhood where Ethiopian immigrants have established an ethnic enclave or a distinctive shopping district, like one can find in Washington, D. C., or Los Angeles.This absence reflects their somewhat limited numbers in the Sacramento area.  Small community spaces in the Sacramento area that cater to Ethiopian-Americans include restaurants like Queen Sheba, as well as places of worship, such as the Sacramento Selassie Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Elk Grove.Ethiopian businesses, institutions, and residents in Sacramento are part of highly-integrated ethnically diverse commercial strips and neighborhoods.

   The latest available U. S. Census data (a 2005-2007 three-year average from the American Community Survey) indicate that SacramentoCounty has an estimated 626 foreign-born residents from Ethiopia.  Among African countries south of the Sahara, only Kenya has sent more to SacramentoCounty.About 1,620 county residents (including both foreign-born and U.S.-born) are estimated to be of Ethiopian ancestry, more than double the number of any other specific African ancestry group.

   The American Community Survey reports that the United States is home to 122,001 foreign-born residents from Ethiopia and 147,340 total residents who claim Ethiopian ancestry.Articles in the popular and academic press sometimes make claims of much higher numbers.


   Ethiopians come to the US

   The Horn of Africa country of Ethiopia is about the same size as Texas and California combined, while its population of 83 million is larger by one-third than those of the same two states put together.This population is the second-largest in sub-Saharan Africa, exceeded only by Nigeria’s.The country is diverse ethnically, linguistically, and religiously.Just over half the population is Eastern Orthodox, 10 percent is Protestant, 33 percent is Muslim, and five percent holds traditional local religious beliefs.

   Migration to the United States from Ethiopia was tiny prior to a violent revolution in 1974 that brought the Marxist military junta of Mengistu Haile Mariam to power.  Perhaps 5,000 Ethiopians were in the U. S. at that time, and although they were mostly on temporary visas, many stayed as a result of the violence and repression that had taken over their country.  Emperor Haile Selassie, who had ruled since 1930, was deposed and imprisoned, and he died the following year.

   Ethiopians began to be let into the United States in larger numbers, many as political refugees, and by 1990, there were an estimated 33,000 of them living here.  Refugee numbers dropped in the 1990s, because the socialist government was replaced in 1991 by one considered friendlier to U. S. interests.While refugee numbers dwindled, Ethiopians entered as students, under family reunification rules, and as recipients of Diversity Visas.


   Ethiopian brain drain

   In general, these Ethiopians who came to the United States were, by Ethiopian standards, fairly well off.  Often they were well-educated and brought with them professional or technical skills. In fact, the loss of well-educated professionals, especially doctors, to the U. S. and other developed countries, has become a problem for Ethiopia. In the new millennium, conflicts involving Ethiopia have rejuvenated refugee flows to the U.S. on the order of several thousand per year.