Hispanic wave pushes them to 1 of every 7 U.S. residents
Arizona Daily Star
June 9, 2005


From condiments to politics, the influence of Latino culture will be difficult to ignore in the coming years.

Say hola to the 41.3 million members of the nation's largest minority group, the latest figures on Hispanics the Census Bureau will release today. Blacks are the second-largest minority group.
In other words, one out of every seven people living in the United States is Hispanic.
Although the number is record-setting, the telltale signs of an impending surge were all over. Salsa has been outselling ketchup in the country for several years. In Arizona, Josť has become the most popular name for babies.
The bureau's report is not expected to include state numbers. But the most recent figures, released in September, showed that 27.8 percent of Arizona's 5.6 million residents identified themselves as of Hispanic or Latino origin, up 2.5 percentage points from 2000.
The state's rising Hispanic population mirrors the nation's upward trend.
"The impact is going to be tremendous all over the country," said Dave Rodriguez of the League of United Latin American Citizens.
"Hispanics in general want to contribute to society," added Rodriguez, the Hispanic advocacy group's national vice president for the Far West region. "We're very hardworking people, protective of our families."
Nationally, Hispanics accounted for one-half of the overall population growth of 2.9 million between July 2003 and July 2004. That was a growth rate of 3.6 percent, compared with the overall growth of 1 percent.
The population growth of Asians, who now total 14 million, came in a close second.
The Census Bureau counts Hispanic or Latino as an ethnicity rather than a race; therefore Hispanics can be of any race. The population of non-Hispanic whites grew just 0.3 percent in the past year, to 197.8 million.
Rodriguez said Hispanics slowly are gaining clout in entertainment and political circles. He pointed to the recent election of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the son of Mexican immigrants, as an example.
"We have immigrated to this country, like all other cultures and we have assimilated into society like all other cultures," he said.
Experts say the rising numbers of Hispanics largely can be attributed to immigration, but higher birthrates also are a factor.
Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, noted that the mass migration of people into the United States over the past 30 years is out of control.
"The issue of the ethnicity of the people is not what concerns us - it's the sheer numbers," said Mehlman, adding that the country's immigration laws are in dire need of reform.
Current immigration laws "don't take into account the interest of people already here."
Mehlman said the growing number of immigrants poses a strain on resources, including schools and the health care system.
"They have to be subsidized by the rest of the population," he added.
Frank Felix, president of the Tucson Hispanic Coalition, disagrees.
He said many immigrants, whether they live in the country legally or illegally, take jobs no else wants.
"They contribute back into the economy substantially," Felix said, adding that they pay taxes like everyone else.
And as the purchasing power of Hispanics grows, Felix said corporations and government entities will need to pay even more attention if they want to reap the benefits of serving the Hispanic community well.
"There's no one-size-fits-all," said Felix, noting the diversity within Hispanic culture of people with roots in various Latin American countries bound by a common language.
The Census Bureau estimates population change using annual data on births, deaths and international migration.
In early July of last year, the nation's population was at about 294 million. Other racial and ethnic breakdowns: 240 million whites, 39.2 million blacks, 4.4 million Indians and Native Alaskans, and 980,000 Native Hawaiians and other Pacific islanders. Of the people counted, 4.4 million listed themselves as having more than one race.
● Contact reporter Lourdes Medrano at 573-4347 or at lmedrano@azstarnet.com.