February 11, 2011 | Quad-City Times | Original Article

Iowa's hispanic population booms

Iowa's Hispanic population exploded over the past decade, growing by 83.7 percent as Latinos drawn by meatpacking jobs began diversifying in the workplace.

Polk County's Hispanic population growth outpaced the rest of the state, up by 97.9 percent since 2000, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Thursday. Iowa's Hispanic population is 151,544, up from 82,473 in 2000.

"I am very surprised at the total size of the population," said Mark Grey, director of Iowa Center for Immigrant Leadership and Integration at the University of Northern Iowa. "(Hispanics) have been coming to this state for 20 years, drawn by jobs in meatpacking.

"The census told me two things: The recession in Iowa wasn't as bad as elsewhere, so we held on to more Latinos, plus you have more filtering out into the economy."

He points to the growth in Polk County as a sign Hispanics are moving away from the meatpacking jobs that first brought them to the state.

The 2009 census estimate put the state's Hispanic population at 134,402, a difference of 17,142 to the actual 2010 head count released Thursday.

"This points out the problems associated with estimating and projecting immigrant and mobile populations," Grey said.

In Scott County, the Hispanic population grew 42.6 percent from 6,445 in 2000 to 9,197 in 2010 and is 5.56 percent of the county population. Comparatively, the black population grew to 11,728, a 21 percent increase over 2000. That is 7 percent of the county's population.

Statewide, there are 89,148 blacks, up from 61,853 in 2000. The number of people who say they are multi-racial is 53,333, up from 31,778 10 years ago.

Scott County has the third-largest Hispanic population in the state, behind Polk and Woodbury.

Casa Guanajuato primarily serves the Hispanic population in the Illinois Quad-Cities and is now providing some services to Scott County residents. Executive director Michael Woods said the population growth can be explained by the changing economy.

"You definitely can see both sides of the river have a significant increase," he said. "Smaller communities are more attractive to the immigrant community because it is less expensive."

Julian Gutierrez, a deacon at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Davenport, has seen steady growth in the Hispanic population. St. Mary's offers a Spanish language Mass that he said regularly draws 300 parishioners. Gutierrez came to Davenport with his family from Mexico in 1959.

"The Hispanic population in the Quad-Cities has exploded," he said. "Our community has grown in so many ways, it is just incredible."

In Davenport, two Hispanic grocery stores - La Finca and Abarrotes Carillo - are located within a block of each other just west of downtown. Shoppers can find things they won't see at American grocery stores, including various Latin American fruits and vegetables that arrive fresh, said Maria Carillo, whose family runs Abarrotes Carillo. Business is good, she said.

"They tell us what to bring, and we bring it," she said of what customers want.

Carillo and her parents travel from Muscatine every day to run the store. In Muscatine County, the Hispanic population grew by 36.7 percent, from 4,973 to 6,803. In Clinton County, the Hispanic population doubled from 627 in 2000 to 1,291 in 2010.

Clinton County is an example of a number of Iowa counties where the population decline has been eased by a growth in the Hispanic population, Grey said. Clinton's population dropped by 2.06 percent.

"A number of the counties have experienced sudden immigrant growth but experienced significant population decline," he said.

Big change

Cities with highest percentage Hispanic population

City Pop. % Latino

Conesville 432 63.0%

West Liberty 3,736 52.2

Columbus Jct. 1,899 48.0

Fredonia 244 43.9

Denison 8,298 42.1

Columbus City 391 41.9

Storm Lake 10,600 36.1

Perry 7,702 35

Chelsea 267 34.1

Postville 2,227 32