Rice with pigeon peas? Yes. Tacos? Yes. Arepas? Also. Empanadas? Of course. Ceviche? For sure. All of these are available inNew York, which according to the experts, is the state with the most diverse Hispanic population in the country.
According to 2010 Census data, in the last decade, New York’s Latino population increased 19%, from 2.9 to 3.4 million, growing more than any other group in the state. Latinos now make up 17.6% of the state’s overall population.
However, unlike states like California and Texas, where Mexicans account for more than 50% of the state’s Hispanic residents, inNew Yorkno Latino group is as dominant. Puerto Ricans continue to be the majority with 31%, followed by Dominicans (19.7%), Mexicans (13.4%), Ecuadoreans (6.7%), Salvadorans (4.5%) and Colombians (4.2%). Nevertheless, the state is also home to significant numbers of Hondurans, Cubans, Guatemalans, Peruvians and Panamanians-and fewer Spaniards, Argentines, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, Chileans, Bolivians, Costa Ricans, Uruguayans and Paraguayans.
These percentages are reflected inNew York City, where Hispanics make up 29% of the overall population. “In New York, you can see the diversity. You go to Queens and realize you’re in Colombian territory. You feel the Mexican, Ecuadorean, Costa Rican presence in the city. Diversity is visible, because these groups have been able to win over physical spaces, have festivals, restaurants, schools,” said Ramona Hernández, director of the Dominican Studies Institute at the City College of New York.
“I know of no other city that has as many Latino groups as New York. If you’re talking about Miami, there’s a Cuban majority; in Texas, it’s Mexicans… But here, it’s different,” she said.
Angelo Falcón, director of the National Institute for Latino Policy, pointed out that New York’s Hispanic population is also different from other states because the presence of people from the Caribbean brings to the forefront the issue of race within the same ethnicity.
“The subject of Afro-Latinos is very unique to New York,” said Falcón.
Hernández thinks that because of the demographic weight of Dominicans and Puerto Ricans in the city, the scale tips more toward the black race.
“If you’re thinking of skin color and align all the Latinos, then it becomes obvious,” said Hernández.
Ana María Archila, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, a Hispanic immigrant organization, agrees about the diversity of Hispanics, but highlights another special characteristic that distinguishes Latinos in the city.
“In New York, the Latino community has been able to build the political power to demand, for example, that Mayor Michael Bloomberg have a platform targeted specifically at the needs of immigrants. I think this level of power and sophistication really doesn’t exist in other cities around the country.”
In New York City, according to the Census, Hispanics are the future. In public schools, 40% of the students are Hispanic. For the population under 18 broken down by demographic group, Hispanics are a majority with 26.8%, followed by African-Americans with 23.7%.
For Lucía Gómez-Jiménez, director of La Fuente, an umbrella community organization for civic participation projects in New York and Long Island, what this means is that there should be a focus on education, and that the Hispanic community needs to mature in terms of voting in order to have more representation.
According to theNew York State Data Center, in the last 10 years, the percentage of Hispanics in the state increased in 60 of the 62 counties. The exceptions were New York County (where it decreased from 27% to 25%) and Franklin County (from 4% to 3%).
The 10 counties with the highest proportions of Hispanics are the Bronx (54%), Queens (28%), New York (Manhattan, 25%), Westchester (22%), Kings (Brooklyn, 20%), Orange (18%), Richmond (Staten Island, 17%), Suffolk (16%), Rockland (16%) and Nassau (15%).
The cities where the number of Hispanics as a percentage of the total population has increased more than 10% are, in order of growth: Peekskill in Westchester, Middletown in Orange, East Hampton in Suffolk, Newburgh in Orange, Southampton in Suffolk, Mount Kisco in Westchester, Ossining in Westchester and Amsterdam in Montgomery.
“We must reach the point where we are no longer one of many. We must have a more concentrated voice in certain areas, people who know how to use the numbers, know how to mobilize,” said Gómez-Jiménez, who was also an advisor to former Governor David Paterson. “There comes a point where we must say, ‘Wait, there’s a lot of diversity, many different races and nationalities, but the Hispanic community is larger.’ And we must understand what being the majority is good for.”
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