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Hispanic experience in Northwest Louisiana differs
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Se p. 15, 2013 |

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Vit a Rine r, (right ), le a ds a s t a f f m e e t ing wit h he r s a le s t e a m a t Vit a La t ina Ma ga z ine . T he m a ga z ine , which publis he s m o nt hly, s e rve s t he La t ino co m m unit ie s o f Ea s t Te xa s a nd no rt hwe s t Lo uis ia na . / Do ugla s Co llie r/T he T im e s

In September 1968, Congress authorized President Lyndon B. Johnson to proclaim National Hispanic Heritage Week, observed during the week that included Sept. 15 and Sept. 16. T he observance was expanded in 1989 by Congress to a monthlong celebration (Sept. 15 - Oct. 15) in which the United Statescelebrates the culture and traditions of those who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean. Sept. 15 was chosen as the starting point f or the celebration because it is the anniversary of independence of f ive Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18, respectively. Source: U.S. Census More

For Vita Riner, being Hispanic in northwest Louisiana is something of which to be proud. Living here since 2002, Riner, who is the editor of Vita Latina magazine, has seen the community go f rom a couple of people to f amilies. She has seen Hispanic business bloom f rom a couple of restaurants to businesses competing f or contracts. T he growth of the Hispanic population since she moved here with her husband has been encouraging. “T here were very f ew f amilies here,” Riner said. “T hen Katrina came. T hen there was a boom in the Hispanic community here, then more businesses and services.” And even with that growth there are challenges. For some Hispanics it’s the public perceptions by others toward the ethnicity group. For others the challenge is f inding acceptance, that delicate balance between two cultures – their own and the northwest Louisiana culture. “It’s dif f icult to adapt when you f irst get here,” she said. T he middle of September marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, 30 days spanning f rom now to midOctober and is dedicated to celebrating the various Hispanic cultures in the United States. In Louisiana, the total Hispanic population is 197,000, ranking the state 31st among the 50 states. T he average age of the ethnic group is 29 years old and 45 percent of them own homes. In comparison to other states, Louisiana’s Hispanic population isn’t large but is part of a regional trend, Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Hispanic Research at the Pew Research Center, said. From Louisiana to the Carolinas, Hispanic communities have increased rapidly in the southern states. T he trend can be traced back to the economic boom of certain cities, such as Atlanta, he said. “A lot of it has been because of Georgia,” he said. “And Georgia has lots of growth because of their housing boom, which means construction, and construction companies draw Hispanics.” (Page 2 of 3) T he increase has been so drastic that Georgia is now one of the top 10 states with a large Hispanic population, joining more traditional states, such as Texas and Calif ornia. In 10 years time, Georgia, with its 880,000 Hispanics, could surpass New Mexico with its 972,000, Lopez said. Louisiana’s Hispanic population, however, stems f rom the af termath of Hurricane Katrina. It was during that time that more Hispanics settled in the state, coming f rom other parts of the country, Lopez said. In Northwest Louisiana, the quick increase of the ethnicity can be seen in the past two Census counts –- 2000 and 2010. In Caddo Parish, the Hispanic population has increased by 63 percent over that time period. Bossier Parish has experienced a 129 percent increase of Hispanics f rom 2000 to 2010, one of the f astest in the state. Among the pitf alls of the rapid increase is f ighting the general misconceptions the public has about Hispanics. T hat makes adjusting to the area more dif f icult, Riner said. For example, not all Hispanic are undocumented and there are some who have been in the area f or several generations. “T here are lots of people here who think all Hispanics are here illegally,” she said. “T hat’s simply not true.” Census numbers back up her statement. T he majority of Hispanics in Louisiana, 56 percent, are U.S. citizens.

Another misconception about the Hispanic community is that all have Mexican origins. While the majority of the ethncity can trace their roots to Mexico, not all can. According to the Census, nearly 2 percent of Louisiana’s Hispanic population classif y themselves as “other Hispanic or Latino.” “In Louisiana 76,000 are of Mexican origin and 57,000 are of Central American origin,” Lopez said. “T hat makes Louisiana unique because if you look at other states you’ll f ind that Central American is not one of the larger Hispanic groups. It’s usually Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and Dominicans.” (Page 3 of 3) John Miralles, program director of animation and visual ef f ects at LSU-Shreveport, is half Cuban. His experience integrating into northwest Louisiana was dif f erent. He’s lived here f ive years. “You have to work at the cultural stuf f where you can,” he said. “T hat’s what I’ve done. Whenever I get the opportunity I’ve done about three of them now, I have a Caja China, a pig-roasting box, and I’ve roasted about three pigs in Shreveport so f ar. It’s something I grew up with. We did them occasionally or f riends of the f amily would do them.” T hrough the pig roasts, he’s able to build a community as well as become part of it. Recently, Miralles was named one of seven innovative creatives by a local magazine. His outward appearance isn’t what is traditionally associated with the Hispanic look. T hat has also helped him integrate into the community. “I walk into a room and if they don’t know my name they don’t necessarily f lag me as Latino,” he said. “I don’t have that outward appearance, I don’t speak with an accent or anything. In the last f ive years I don’t think I’ve run into one person or one situation where me being Latino has been a f actor. For me, f ortunately or unf ortunately, it’s been kind of a non-event.” While some Hispanics f ace challenges adapting, others don’t. Southern University-Shreveport nursing student Gloria Nicole Garcia, 24, said she’s never once f elt excluded f rom the northwest Louisiana culture. She grew up in Monroe but her f ather moved to Louisiana f rom Texas more than 30 years ago to attend college. Her grandf ather was f rom Mexico. “I really don’t f eel any dif f erent,” she said. “T his is all I’ve ever really known. T his is normal to me. But my dad, aunts and uncles tell me stories. How I was raised dif f erent than they were. How much more strict they were raised.” Erika Rosales, 18, has a similar opinion. An accounting major at SUSLA, she graduated f rom Byrd High School and has never been to Mexico, where her parents are f rom. “I’m just like any other ethnicity or color,” she said. “I can work hard and get whatever I want. I don’t f eel dif f erent.” Page T OP VIDEO PICKS selected by Taboolaselected by Taboola by Taboolaby Taboola SPONSORED LINKS Wall St. Cheat SheetSponsoredT he 8 Least Expensive Places To Live in the …Wall St. Cheat Sheet Caring.comSponsored7 Signs of an Unhealthy HeartCaring.com Money MorningSponsoredHidden Taxes Take Ef f ect Jan. 1, 2014Money Morning

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