If you’re looking for a taste of Latin culture, Corona, Queens is one of the neighborhoods where you’ll certainly find it. But that wasn’t always the case. Some longtime residents remember when the area was made up mostly of black and white residents.
That was the case when Paula Debord moved there 30 years ago from the Dominican Republic.
"When I first got here, it was mostly Italians and I would say about 5 percent Dominicans," says Debord. "All of a sudden now, it’s probably 15 percent of Dominicans and the rest of the population is South American."
Latinos are moving to the area in record numbers. Corona gained about 10,000 more residents over the last 10 years, many of them Hispanics.
Across the borough, the Hispanic population grew 10 percent in the same period.
"It’s definitely more than 10 percent," says Debord.
The 2010 census results say otherwise. They show the Hispanic population now at 614,000 — that’s 50,000 more residents than what was recorded in the 2000 census.
Some experts say many Hispanics left the city during the economic downturn, but community activists believe a lack of participation by the undocumented and a mistrust of the government among other Hispanic immigrants contributed to the lower count.
"There’s still a large group of folks who were reluctant to come out for a number of reasons and be counted," says Make the Road New York organizer Daniel Coates.
Even so, the Hispanic community now accounts for 28 percent of the Queens population, which mirrors the white population also at 28 percent. They are followed closely by the Asian count at 23 percent, out of 2.2 million residents.
"I think there continues to be an influx of Mexicans, from different parts of Mexico. The Ecuadorian community continues to grow, the Colombian community continues to grow," says Coates.
Its all adds up to a perhaps slower, but no less steady growth of the Hispanic population in Queens and across the city.
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