March 16, 2011 | Times-Herald | Original Article

Vallejo's Hispanic population exceeds 26,000

Editor's note: This story is part of an occasional series exploring the changing demographics of Vallejo.

Vallejo's Latino population exploded in the last two decades, in sharp contrast to the decline of its overall population.

Latinos now number more than 26,000, making up more than 22 percent of Vallejo's population, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

That's a staggering 40 percent increase from the 2000 census, and a jump of more than 122 percent increase since the 1990 census.

"I think it's grown, but I haven't noticed it as an explosion. It feels like a trickle," said Lorena Hernandez, incoming principal of the Cave Language Academy, which will teach students equally in Spanish and English.

But the growth is more obvious in the influx of Latino businesses into Vallejo, largely concentrated in the area around Broadway and Nebraska Street.

Among them is La Tapatia Market, a grocery store that caters to Latinos. It began as a small convenience store on Sonoma Boulevard before expanding and moving to its current location more than 10 years ago at 601 Broadway.

"I remember going (to the smaller store) as a kid," said Waldyna Rosa, who now works at the Broadway location.

Rosa has worked at the store for a decade, becoming fluent in Spanish. Many white and African-American people also patronize the store, she added.

Despite the growth in the Latino population, Vallejo's overall population dropped 0.7 percent since 2000.

The white population fell 9.4 percent from 2000 and almost 31 percent from 1990.


Whites now make up just under a third of the population, compared to more than half 20 years ago.

One of Vallejo's draws for Latinos could be its oft-touted prime location, theorized Carmen Sandoval, owner of Bere's Bridal & Christening at 530 Broadway. Many Latinos work in Napa's vineyards, with Vallejo offering a less expensive alternative for housing, she said.

"It's easier for people to travel when they have to go to work," Sandoval said.

Sandoval's opened her bridal shop more than a dozen years ago and has seen many of her Latino clients come from out of town.

Rosa said La Tapatia also gets customers from Marin County and elsewhere.

In California, the Latino population has grown by nearly 28 percent since 2000.

Perhaps as an indication of the growing influence of Spanish in California and the United States in general is this: There has been considerable interest among Vallejo's black community in the Cave Academy, which is scheduled to open this fall, Hernandez said.

"We want to see our community flourish. The more Latinos move in, we want to communicate with them. We want to make it a stronger community," said Cherita Dilley, an African-American parent who wants her children to attend the language academy.

Dilley said the academy also would make its students more competitive in the job market and noted that Vallejo is now largely a town made up of blacks, Latinos and Filipinos.

The academy will hold its final information session Monday at Cave Elementary School, 770 Tregaskis Ave. The Spanish session will be held at 5:30 p.m., and the English session will be held at 6:30 p.m.