February 26, 2011 | Victoria Advocate | Original Article

Crossroads region becoming older, more Hispanic

For Olga Chapa, making the decision to move to Victoria was an easy one.

Chapa, an Edinburg native, moved to Victoria in August 2009 to work as a professor of management at the University of Houston-Victoria.

However, she said she was attracted to the area for reasons other than just the job.

"The architecture, the homes, parks, the restoration of so many of the old buildings was very impressive," said Chapa, who is in her 40s. "It's in the center of everything. I can go to Austin and visit my son, I can go to San Antonio and do stuff, and then there's Goliad. There are all these wonderful, nearby historic places."

Chapa is just one of several Hispanics who have moved to the Crossroads region in the past 10 years, according to U.S. Census data.

Since 2000, the Hispanic population has increased from 58,522 to 67,642, which is nearly a 16 percent increase.

While Victoria, Calhoun, DeWitt, Goliad, Jackson and Lavaca Counties all saw marked increases in their Hispanic populations, Refugio was the only county to see a slight decrease.

Lavaca County had the largest Hispanic growth with an increase of nearly 41 percent.

While the region's total is far lower than the state's total increase of nearly 42 percent, state demographer Lloyd Potter said the region's increase is still significant.

"It's being driven by natural increase. Persons of Hispanic descent are having kids," said Potter. "The Latino population rate is younger and has a lower mortality rate, which results in fairly higher increases among Latinos."

Decreased population rates among the region's non-Hispanic whites and blacks could be a factor in the higher number of Hispanics, said Potter.

Census data shows that the white population decreased about 6 percent and the black population decreased about 5 percent.

"The younger, non-Hispanic Anglos in the labor force are moving to more urbanized areas to go to school," said Potter.

The influx of jobs that lend themselves to Hispanic day laborers may also account for the increase in the Hispanic population, said Clinton Tegeler, executive director of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce.

"Some of them tend to get hired on to do odd jobs for oil companies," said Tegeler.

Many area chambers of commerce attribute their local increases to greater promotion of what their areas have to offer residents.

"We're promoting we're a tourist spot, a vacation spot and a good place to live," said Tina Crow, executive director of the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce. "We're finally on the map."

Meanwhile, Patrick J. Kennedy, economic and community development coordinator for Yoakum, said Yoakum is working to establish itself as the hub of South Central Texas.

"We're trying to be diverse," said Kennedy "We're pleased that our population has not decreased."

Lower cost of living and the number of healthcare providers are viewed as factors for the higher median age among area residents, which has increased 6 percent since 2000, according to Census data.

"You can buy the same type of house here and it costs much less," said Tegeler. "You can put money away and live comfortably."

The growing number of Hispanics in the region is a trend that Chapa expects will continue throughout the next few years.

"I'm looking forward to the future of Victoria," she said. "All of Texas will see an increase of Hispanics whether we like it or not."