Oscar Diaz of the Cortez in Raleigh, N.C., which has become an exemplar of new Southern cuisine

THE SIGNS OF A NUEVO SOUTH ARE IMPOSSIBLE TO miss at Jose and Sons, a buzzy restaurant inside a former train depot in downtown Raleigh, N.C. On a window on the side of a door, HOLA Y’ALL flows in a jolly green script, while HECHO EN RALEIGH snakes across the bar in big block letters.

The slogans are a preview of a menu that seamlessly melds Southern and Mexican classics—think collard-green tamales, pork chops rubbed in al pastor spices, pimento cheese enlivened with chicharrones. “We’re not being ‘authentic’ Mexican, we’re not being ‘authentic’ Southern,” says the 32-year-old owner, Charlie Ibarra. “It’s just who we are.”

Who they are is emblematic of a titanic shift in how the South views itself—and how Americans are finally beginning to view the South. Over the past 30 years, the most racially fraught region of the U.S. has been reshaped by an influx of immigrants. Of the 10 states with the fastest-growing Latino populations between 2000 and 2011, nine were in el Sur. The South’s Asian-American population, meanwhile, totaled 3.8 million in 2010—up 69% since 2000—the largest increase of any minority group. Many of these new arrivals mitigated the tensions that appeared in the

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