March 21, 2011 | Whittier Daily News | Original Article

Whittier sees dramatic change in demographics as Latino numbers rise

Once a mostly white city, new Census figures show that nearly two-thirds of Whittier is now Latino.

This trend was reflected throughout the Whittier area. Latinos now make up the largest ethnic group in La Mirada and nearly a quarter of La Habra Heights.

They also have solid majorities in all other communities, including making up more than 91 percent of Pico Rivera.

The U.S. Census Bureau just released its first round of data from the 2010 Census, which gives broad categories used to draw congressional seats.

The numbers aren't a surprise to Mayor Greg Nordbak.

"I live in East Whittier and if four houses open up in our neighborhood, three of them would be Hispanic and they're great neighbors," he said.

Louis Reyes, acting chairman of the Whittier Latino Coalition, said the trend is one that will continue.

"It's a social migration," he said. "You have (white) people who are empty nesters who are retiring. They move out of these large homes and Whittier's a nice community that attracts a lot of Latino professionals who buy their first home and start their families."

The increasing number of Latinos means more adjustments for the community, said Charlene Dimas-Peinado, chief executive officer of The Whole Child, a nonprofit organization that provides counseling for children.

And that includes her organization that has had to hire more bilingual therapists.

At one time, the agency served about half white and Latino. Now the ratio is about 90-10 Latino, Dimas-Peinado said.


"We have more Hispanic therapists than we've previously had," she said. "At times there are language needs. It's important for us to be culturally sensitive."

The numbers also mean the need for more Latino leaders, said Whittier Planning Commissioner Fernando Dutra.

"Its' going to mean that we need to endorse and look for Hispanic leaders to help formulate and take the city to the next level," Dutra said.

Whittier currently has no Latino City Council members but Dutra said he's not concerned about that fact.

"The people who are in there were voted in by Hispanic voters in the city ... because they are competent and are the right leaders."

In La Mirada, officials said the trend doesn't change that much for the city.

"It's seamless," said Planning Commissioner Alejandro Ponce.

"You look at myself," Ponce said. "My wife is not Hispanic but you're seeing Hispanic last names. I coach youth sports and you'll see a Perez or a Rodriguez or other common Hispanic names with blond hair and not speaking Spanish."

La Mirada Mayor Pete Dames said the Latino population is involved in the city.

"They've involved in everything and that's great," he said.

The council has one Latino in Councilman Gabe Garcia.

That shows the involvement in the community, Garcia said.

"We're just one big melting pot," he said.