March 28, 2011 | Mass Live | Original Article

Census 2010: Hispanics boost Massachusetts population

SPRINGFIELD - Last week the U.S. Census Bureau numbers revealed Hispanics make up 10 percent of the state's total population and had grown to 15 percent of Western Massachusetts population.

"All you have to do is walk down the streets of the city to see that Latinos make up a large portion of our population," said Springfield City Councilor and candidate for mayor Jose F. Tosado.

The 2010 data regarding Hispanic residents was released March 22 and revealed Springfield, Holyoke and Chicopee have seen a significant rise in their Hispanic populations since the last count in 2000. The terms Hispanic and Latino are used interchangeably in the United States for people with origins in Spanish-speaking countries. The term Hispanic used throughout the article refers to people of any race who self-identify as Hispanic and are primarily of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American origin.

A study of the new data conducted by the Pew Hispanic Research Center, a national research organization that chronicles Hispanics' growing impact on the nation, shows there are 50.5 million Hispanics in the United States, making up 16.3 percent of the total population. The nation's Hispanic population, which was 35.3 million in 2000, grew 43 percent over the decade. The Hispanic population also accounted for most of the nation's growth, at 56 percent.

D'Vera Cohn, senior writer for the Pew Research Center, said Massachusetts is one of only six states in the country to attribute all of its growth to the Hispanic population.
"In these six states, which include Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island, growth in the Hispanic population accounted for all of those states' population growth. Basically, if the Hispanic population had not grown, those states would not have grown," she said.

Cohn said another interesting finding is that growth was led by American-born Hispanics, not immigrants.

"Research has indicated that most of the growth in the Hispanic population across the nation was due to birth, not immigration," she said. "While immigration is still a substantial force for increasing the population, this time around it has been surpassed by Hispanics born in the country."

Massachusetts population grew from 6,349,097 in 2000 to 6,547,629 in 2010, an increase of 3.1 percent. In Springfield, Hispanic residents helped keep the city's population above 150,000, a cut-off point for a number of federal grants and other aid.
The population of Hispanics in Springfield increased to 59,541, or almost 39 percent of the city's population. That's up from 41,343 in 2000, when Hispanics constituted 27.2 percent of the city's population.

"We are certainly very conscious of the fact that the large number of Latinos in this area have helped us maintain the grants and aid we need to keep the city moving forward," said Mayor Domenic J. Sarno. He said the city has recently had some major changes in government that reflect the city's diverse population.

"There have been a lot of Hispanics taking on positions of leadership throughout the city," Sarno said. "For the first time we have four Latino representatives on the City Council. The city also hired Gladys Oyola as the first Latina Election Commissioner in the city. Orlando Ramos, a Puerto Rican man, was named to the License Commission this year as well."

Rep. Cheryl A. Coakley-Rivera, D-Springfield, who is the only Hispanic state representative in Western Massachusetts, said with the larger numbers comes a larger responsibility.

"We will be taking on leadership roles that will require us to look at the best interest of the entire population, not just Latinos. That is where education is going to play a major role," she said. "We have to make sure our children are educated so they are ready to become leaders and decision makers in the city."

Holyoke saw the Hispanic population rise from 16,485 in 2000 to 19,313 in 2010, from 41.4 percent to 48.4 percent. In Chicopee the Hispanic population went from 4,790 or 8.8 percent of the population in 2000, to 8,196 or 14.8 percent of the population in 2010.

Chicopee Mayor Michael D. Bissonnette said he has noticed the increase, particularly in the schools and the first-time home buyers program, which the city put in effect three years ago.

"It seems that every other application has a Hispanic surname. They are looking to buy homes in the area and send their children to Chicopee schools," he said. Bissonnette noted there have not been any additions of low-income housing units, further proof that families moving into the community are looking to be home owners.

While Hampshire and Franklin counties saw modest increases in Hispanic population, communities like Sunderland, Montague, Greenfield, Northampton and Amherst saw the Hispanic population rise to about five percent or higher.

Maria-Idali Torres, director of the Mauricio Gaston Institute for Latino Community Development and Public Policy, based at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, said there has been a trend of Hispanics moving to the suburbs outside large cities, particularly in Berkshire County where the Hispanic population went from 19,242 in 2000 to 33,020.

"Basically there is a community of people where they really didn't exist before," she said. "They are filling a lot of services jobs, including working as nannies and caring for the elderly and working at local restaurants."

Torres said Hispanics also want to establish businesses.

"Latinos traditionally have entrepreneurial spirits and are looking to establish themselves in communities where they can start their own businesses," she said.

Carlos Gonzalez, president of the Massachusetts Latino Chamber of Commerce, said the census shows what his organization already knows.

"As our numbers have increased we have become a huge consumer power, and we really drive economic development throughout the state," he said.