As we wind down another Hispanic Heritage Month to celebrate our rich and diverse cultural heritage, the 2010 Census tells us that there are now 58.9 million people of Hispanic origin in the United States. This represents 18 percent of the nation’s total population, and Hispanics are now officially the nation’s largest minority group.
We have much of which to be proud – including 1.1million Latino veterans of the US armed forces. Hispanics contribute much to America’s scientific, business, cultural, sports, entertainment, public and nonprofit sectors. There are 4.4 million Hispanic-owned businesses in the country, generating $700 billion. The number of Hispanic young adults attending college is at an all-time high, for the first time surpassing the number of African-American students on campuses. Our average age is 27, compared to 47 for non-Hispanic white Americans, which means that we will be contributing to the economy, paying taxes, and contributing to Social Security in record numbers – just when the baby boomers generation needs it most.
There were Hispanics in America prior to the Mayflower, and we have long been an integral part of this great nation. Of the 120,000 Hispanics in the Buffalo / Rochester area, most of us are of Puerto Rican descent, and we’re therefore, US born citizens. Therefore, there are relatively few Hispanic undocumented aliens, particularly in the city of Buffalo and Rochester. Western New Yorks Hispanic leaders actively promote integration, education, and the acquisition of English fluency as the means to economic success. Consequently, we have increasingly found success for our families.
Unfortunately, the Pew Hispanic Center recently found that for the first time there are more Hispanic children living in poverty, than either non-Hispanic white or African-American children. That national study also found that Hispanics have been hit harder than any other group by the economic decline. We have seen the same trend in the Western New York region. We have unemployment rates that are higher than the average, and have seen our average household wealth decline more steeply than either non Hispanic whites or African-Americans. Because so many of our families are increasingly working poor, they become ineligible for food stamps or other public assistance. Food insecurity has become an issue nationwide, with a much bigger proportion of Hispanic working families turning to food pantries than any other group. The economic gains of our ethnic community in recent years have unfortunately been largely wiped out in the last three years. Add this to Buffalos’ and Rochester’s low graduation rates for Hispanic youth, and it is clear that while many Hispanic families thrive, many others continue to falter.
As we celebrate our heritage this month, Hispanic leaders have been engaged in active planning for uplifting our people up, so that we can get back on track on the economic success and to increasingly help more of our children and future generations reach the American Dream and become contributing citizens of this great nation. America needs all of its citizens to be successful. Please join us in our efforts, this month and every month.
By: Hilda Rosario Escher- Former Chief Executive Officer
Ibero-American Action League, Inc.