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Hispanics offer rich culture to cities

Associated Press. (1998, April 26). Latino population growing rapidly: Hispanics offer rich culture to cities. The Daily Oklahoman, p. 30.


Salsa is America’s top condiment. The Macarena has just finished sweeping through the nation’s dance clubs. Burritos and tacos can be eaten in restaurants within a mile of anywhere. More and more communities are celebrating Cinco de Mayo. Neil Foley, the associate director of the Center for Mexican-American Studies at the University of Texas, explains, " ‘Hispanics are reconquering the United States with the culture, their language, their food and with sheer force of numbers.’ "

Note these facts about Hispanics living in America, compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau and Rodriguez Communications, a California-based Hispanic marketing company:

  • The U.S. Hispanic population ranks as the fifth-largest in the world, behind Mexico, Spain, Colombia, and Argentina.
  • There are more than 7.6 million Hispanic households in the U.S., averaging 3.6 people per household.
  • In 1995, 74%of U.S. Hispanics resided in five states: California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois.
  • 77% of Hispanics living in the U.S. were born abroad, and 44% have lived in the U.S. 10 years or less.
  • 58% of Hispanics over age 18 are employed full-time.
  • 6.6% of Hispanics over age 18 are unemployed.
  • 31% of all Hispanic households send money to relatives in their country of origin.
  • The buying power of the U.S. Hispanic market is more than $228 billion, and the three markets with the greatest buying power are Los Angeles, New York, and Miami, Fla.
  • The average household income for Hispanics increased from $14,712 in 1980 to $29,500 in 1996.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that "Hispanics will become the nation’s largest minority by 2005, growing…to 36 million." Additionally, "From 1995 to 2025 Hispanic growth will account for 44 percent of the nation’s population growth."

The Hispanic population is stretching beyond its border hubs. Consider Portland, Oregon. While its population is currently 92% white, Oregon’s Hispanic population is growing four times faster than the general population. Among its 3 million residents, the state is home to 150,000 Hispanics. One-third of these people live in the Portland area. The Cinco de Mayo celebration is "one of the largest festivals in town, rising in attendance from 200 in 1985 to about 200,000 last year."

In Portland’s suburbs, the rise in the Hispanic population is more visible. One east suburb, Gresham, is home to "hundreds of migrant farm workers." Spanish-language services are offered at a local Baptist church—which also provides weekly English classes. However, many Mexicans living in the area feel uncomfortable. Ricardo Diaz, a 17-year-old who previously lived in Los Angeles, asserts that " ‘There’s a lot of racism up here…People look at you like you’re going to rob them. They lock the door when you stop at a stoplight.’ " At Marshall High, Diaz is one of 92 Hispanic students. This figure represents a 35% increase in the Hispanic student population over the past two years. Throughout the Portland district, 3,300 Hispanic children are enrolled in school, a 71% increase since 1980. Also, teen pregnancies, drug and gang activities, and dropouts are becoming more prevalent.

Throughout the community and government, Hispanic representation is scant. However, Portland residents believe "that as their community grows, their neighbors will be more neighborly." Says Johnny Gonzales, an apartment complex maintenance supervisor, " ‘…I think it’s all going to turn out great. Once you get to meet a Hispanic…you find out we’re not any different. We’re not just a bunch of siesta or drinking-and-wanting-to-fight people. There’s a life behind it.’ "


  1. What is the Hispanic population where you live? How does this population affect the trends of the local youth culture?
  2. Have you witnessed instances of racism toward Hispanic youth? Has the number of these incidents increased or decreased over the years? How do you handle such situations?
  3. How can youth workers work with students of different ethnic origins?
  4. Can a youth worker be relevant to a young person of a different heritage? How?
  5. How does a youth worker attempt to bring together young people of different backgrounds? Is this the youth worker’s responsibility?
  6. How does a youth worker serve a family of a student from a different culture or ethnicity?


    • The Hispanic population is growing—throughout and across the U.S.
    • It is important for youth workers to learn about the Hispanic population. Remember that while there are some similarities throughout many Hispanic cultures, there are differences between specific countries of origin. Respect the uniqueness of the cultures.
    • Brainstorm ways to bridge young people of diverse ethnicities. Many ethnic populations in the U.S. are increasing.
    • Just as you are a student of the youth culture, be a student of Hispanic culture. Generally, Hispanic students will appreciate your interest in their background and ethnic traditions.
    • Poverty is indeed a problem among many Hispanics. Language barriers are also challenging to work through.
    • For numerous and obvious reasons, Hispanic youth living in America need the love and guidance of youth workers.

Kathryn Q. Powers cCYS