Skip to comments.Georgia tops nation in Hispanic growth
Posted on 09/18/2003 9:31:31 AM PDT by citizen
The Hispanic population grew faster in Georgia than in any state in the nation from 2000 to 2002, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau figures released today.
Lured by jobs and relatives, a net gain of about 102 Hispanics a day came to Georgia in the last two years from Latin America, mainly Mexico, and from states with much larger Hispanic populations, such as California, Texas and Illinois.
Georgia's Hispanic community grew 17 percent, to about 516,500, the latest evidence of profound transformation of a state long cast in black and white.
The pattern repeated itself around the Southeast, in places with little sustained history of Hispanic settlement. The eight states with the fastest growing Hispanic populations included North Carolina, Kentucky, South Carolina, Virginia and Alabama.
The analysis also shows that metro Atlanta experienced the most rapid Hispanic growth rate among the nation's 20 most populous metro areas. The census says rural Dawson County, about 60 miles north of downtown Atlanta, had the most dramatic increase in Hispanic population -- 59 percent growth -- though only 2 percent of people in Dawson County are Hispanic.
Gwinnett County has the highest concentration of Hispanics -- 13 percent -- of the 28 counties that meet the federal definition of metro Atlanta.
About 6 percent of Georgians and 7.5 percent of metro Atlantans are Hispanic.
It is the promise of work that attracts people such as Emma Paz, a young Honduran who cleans rooms for $8.30 an hour at the Renaissance Atlanta Hotel in downtown Atlanta. She left her native Honduras in 1991 and joined siblings in Los Angeles, where she found a factory job sewing clothes.
Her pay hinged on production, she said, and averaged a paltry $3 an hour. So she wasted no time after a friend told her about plentiful jobs in Georgia.
"In California, there were no good jobs," she said in Spanish on Wednesday afternoon. "There are more jobs here."
Open job market
Some industries to which Hispanics gravitate have openings despite an economic slowdown, said Stephanie Bohon, a University of Georgia sociology professor.
She attributed some growth in the Hispanic population to the arrival of men in search of jobs, but also pointed to a growing number of women and children. Many young men from Latin America who have worked here for several years want relatives to join them.
"Now they can afford to bring their wives and children," she said.
When Paz came to Atlanta in 1996, half the housekeepers at the Renaissance hotel were Hispanic and half were black. Now 95 percent speak Spanish as their native tongue.
They push gray plastic carts through hotel corridors to deliver bottles of shampoo and conditioner, rolls of toilet paper, white shower caps and boxes of facial and bath soap. They vacuum, make beds and clean bathrooms.
Francis Antunez knows the routine well. She started cleaning rooms at the Renaissance about the same time as Paz. Now she manages a housekeeping staff of 70 workers. One difference between her and most of the housekeepers, she said, is that she speaks fluent English. Her parents brought her from Mexico to Chicago at age 4.
She said most housekeepers in her hotel know English terms like "good morning" and "shaving cream," but lack the command of the language that helped her move from a job paying $6 an hour to a position that pays $40,000 a year.
Most of the housekeepers she hires were born in Mexico, El Salvador or Honduras. About half came directly to Atlanta from those countries, she said. Others came from elsewhere in the United States.
All are keenly aware of an economic reality articulated by Maricela Gutierrez, a housekeeper who followed a brother and sister from Acapulco, Mexico, to metro Atlanta in 1997.
"What you can earn in one week there is what you earn here in two days," she said in a hallway on the 23rd floor of the hotel.
UGA's Bohon and a colleague, housing and consumer economics professor Jorge Atiles, interviewed more than 300 Latinos and social-service providers in Georgia for a study published last year. They suggested the rapid demographic changes and economic recession may exacerbate social tension between native-born Americans and their Spanish-speaking neighbors.
"When the economy goes bad, tension goes up," Atiles said.
Bohon said her research showed that the people most likely to have concerns about the Hispanic influx were older residents outside metro Atlanta. They tended to be native-born Georgians or people who had lived in the state for many years.
Illegal immigrant issue
One common complaint is that many Hispanics in Georgia are illegal immigrants. No one knows the precise number, but Bohon said she believes people tend to exaggerate the illegal immigrant population.
Immigration authorities said this year that 228,000 illegal immigrants live in Georgia, though it is not known how many are from Latin America as opposed to other regions. But national estimates are that 76 percent of all illegal immigrants are Hispanic.
Growth of the state's Hispanic population has enormous implications for just about every major institution in the state.
A growing number of businesses recognize an emerging and powerful consumer market: A recent UGA study said Hispanic buying power in Georgia soared from $1.3 billion in 1990 to $10.2 billion this year.
Local governments spend money to hire translators and interpreters to work in courts, schools and police departments. Other institutions lack the funds to do that, Atiles said.
Delivery room indicator
One of the most telling signs of the future: Spanish-speaking nurses are suddenly in demand in hospital obstetrics wards. A growing number of babies born in Georgia are Hispanic boys and girls who are likely to come of age in a different Georgia.
"The Latino population is here to stay," Bohon said, "and it's going to get larger."
By ROCHELLE CARTER Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Fair Oaks Elementary School Principal Pete Robertson knew how to express his gratitude for the luncheon the school's Mexican parents provided this week for National Hispanic Heritage Month.
Robertson spent 16 days this summer in Apizaco, Mexico, in a cram session of language and culture to help him interact with his south Cobb school's growing Hispanic population -- 62 percent of his school's 690 kids and growing.
"I was able to speak to the general audience," said Robertson, who was one of 19 Cobb educators to take the trip. "Last year I just waved."
With the Hispanic population growing fast in Georgia, Robertson said more educators will have to take similar steps if they want to work effectively with the new students and their families.
New census data show that children ages 4 and under make up the fastest growing age group among Georgia's Hispanics.
From 2000 to 2002, the number of Hispanic youngsters in that age range grew 36.5 percent in Atlanta's 28-county metro area. That's an increase of 10,774 children in two years.
By comparison, the number of non-Hispanic children 4 and under grew by just 6.2 percent over those two years. The total Hispanic population grew by 22.8 percent in the metro area during that period.
This influx of Hispanic students will drive an already growing need for more translators, bilingual teachers and English for Speakers of Other Languages programs in the region's public schools, officials said Wednesday. It will also continue to push educators to re-examine how they teach.
The oldest children in the census figures started kindergarten this year.
Robertson sees their younger siblings when they come to parent-teacher conferences or wait at the bus stop with their parents.
"You can see there is a wave of children in two or three years waiting to come into the kindergarten program," Robertson said.
Maria Montalvo, coordinator of the English for Speakers of Other Languages program in Fulton County Schools, said the population has grown so much that only a couple of schools in the county don't have ESOL programs. She coordinates 168 ESOL teachers to work with a largely native Spanish-speaking population. The Fulton school system hired interpreters 500 times this year for events such as parent-teacher conferences, compared with 36 times four years ago, she said.
"We now translate everything [that is sent home to parents] into four languages," Montalvo said.
Coweta County's population of Hispanic infants through 4-year-olds grew 45.2 percent from 2000 to 2002, the largest leap in Atlanta's close-in suburban counties. The number of Hispanic students enrolled in Coweta more than doubled from 226 in March 2000 to 589 in March 2003, according to the Georgia Department of Education. The school system's overall population grew by 2,084 in the same period to 18,310.
The county has eight ESOL teachers who work with 140 students, most of them Hispanic, said Susan Wareham, Coweta County Schools' director of preschool and ESOL programs. But 21 teachers have earned an ESOL endorsement on their teaching certificate in response to the system's changing population.
"I'm not worried right now because I know we could staff our program as it gets larger," Wareham said.
Greg Bautista, president of the Hispanic Committee of Gainesville/Hall County, said the public schools are trying hard to work with the state's growing Hispanic population. But he fears that other Georgians will see Hispanics as a group that's sucking resources from the schools.
"I think we have the opportunity to really be proactive," Bautista said. "Reaching out to this population doesn't have to mean reinventing the wheel and spending a lot of money. We're early enough in the growth . . . to be able to build the infrastructure in Georgia schools to be able to respond to this growing population effectively. "
Why are they REALLY being allowed to invade this nation, without even a play-like attempt of enforcing laws against these illegals?????
That process is well underway.
I lived in LA in the 80's and have lived in ATL since '91. Tha parallels between the two in terms of growth, traffic, smog, demographics, etc. are frightening.
I used to love ATL, but I now see many of the things I hated about LA.
.... well ha ha ha what goes around comes around!!!!!!!!
Ha, they already do. It seems to be required to have it on your vehicle. On Buford Highway, near my office and a major mexican area, all the damn billboards are in spanish and don't bother to stop and converse with anyone in english. I used to tolerate the invaders because they worked so hard, but they really are taking over here.
One long term benefit is that Latin Americans act as American melting pot agents. Like oil and water, blacks and whites in Georgia don't marry often however Latin Americans marry both. The blending over time, say 200 years, will greatly reduce segregation and social stratification.