March 17, 2011 | Belleville Patch | Original Article

Belleville Among State's 'Most Hispanic' Communities

Walk through a supermarket in Belleville and the chit-chat you hear among shoppers perusing the aisles is almost as likely to be in Spanish as it is in English.  Churches that once served worshipers who were predominantly of European descent now have Latin American congregations. The acronym “ESL” -- English as a second language -- is well-known to teachers in the township’s grade schools, many of whose pupils only become acquainted with America’s most common tongue when they enter a Belleville classroom.

Census data show that the nation’s Hispanic population has grown tremendously in the last decade and especially here in Belleville, where it has more than doubled since 2000. According to the American Community Survey (ACS), which is conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, more than 12,000 township residents -- 36.5 percent of the total -- now claim Hispanic or Latino ancestry.  

That percentage is the highest in Essex County and higher than all but about four percent of all the communities in the state, according to an analysis of ACS data conducted by Patch. Only 24 of 564 New Jersey municipalities surveyed have a higher share of Hispanic residents. (Current data was not available for two communities, Woodland Park -- formerly West Paterson -- in Passaic County, and South Belmar in Monmouth County.)

Overall, 15.1 percent of New Jersey residents are Hispanic or Latino, a term used to describe native-born Americans  who claim descent from Latin America, Spanish-speaking South America or Spain, as well as immigrants from those regions. The terms “Hispanic” or “Latino” can apply to people of any race.

The state’s Hispanic population is not distributed evenly. Several smaller communities, like Barnegat Light at the Shore or Walpack in Sussex County, had Hispanic populations of zero for the time frame covered by the survey. Among the populous cities of Hudson County -- a well-established Hispanic enclave -- the share ranges as high as 79 percent.

Below is a list ranking the state’s municipalities by the share of residents who are Hispanic. The data come from “fact sheets” prepared by ACS, and cover the years 2005 through 2009. The data don’t represent a snapshot of a particular point in time but rather a picture of population trends over the course of five years.  

Municipality/County/Hispanic population, as percent of total population:

  1. Union City, Hudson, 79.6
  2. West New York, Hudson, 79
  3. Perth Amboy, Middlesex, 76.4
  4. Passaic, Passaic, 68.3
  5. Washington, Burlington, 66  
  6. North Bergen, Hudson, 65.6
  7. Dover, Morris, 63.4
  8. Victory Gardens, Morris, 62.2
  9. Guttenberg, Hudson, 61.9
  10. Elizabeth, Union, 56.3
  11. Paterson, Passaic, 54.7
  12. East Newark, Hudson, 52.7
  13. Fairview, Bergen, 50.1
  14. New Brunswick, Middlesex, 47.9
  15. Haledon, Passaic, 47.2
  16. Bound Brook, Somerset, 46.4
  17. North Plainfield, Somerset, 43.6
  18. Harrison, Hudson, 43.5
  19. Camden, Camden, 42.1
  20. Wharton, Morris, 41.8
  21. Prospect Park, Passaic, 41.4
  22. Freehold borough, Monmouth, 38.8
  23. Ridgefield Park, Bergen, 38.6
  24. Bridgeton, Cumberland, 37.6