Brito: Hispanics make their presence felt 03/30/2011
Originally published: March 29, 2011 7:59 PM
A version of this article appeared in Newsday’s print edition on March 30, 2011, on page A32
By LUIS E. MONTES BRITO
Luis E. Montes Brito is managing partner of Pan American Communications and the former consul general of El Salvador on Long Island.
According to the census figures released last week, Hispanics accounted for more than of half the nation's growth between 2000 and 2010. And Nassau and Suffolk counties are no exception.
Almost half a million Hispanics now live on Long Island. If it weren't for Hispanics and Asians, Long Island's tax base would have shrunk over the past decade, stifling an already fragile economic recovery. Instead, these groups -- many new to the country -- are helping the local economy by paying sales and income taxes and supporting local businesses.
Growth in the Latino community at the national and local levels is matched by progress on the economic, educational and political fronts. Latino purchasing power continues to rise and now exceeds $5.5 billion on Long Island -- and almost $1 trillion nationally, according to the U.S. State Department.
More and more Hispanic young people are graduating from college -- despite inequalities still permeating the system. Some of these hardships are documented in a new American Enterprise Institute report, "Rising to the Challenge," which notes that working to increase Hispanic graduation rates all the more should be considered a national priority.
There are also clear trends that dispel some of the "suburban myths" about Hispanics and their commitment to remaining in this country and integrating into the social fabric. A sure sign of this commitment will be the expansion of Hispanic homeownership and entrepreneurship that has been projected by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.
The surge in Hispanic population and influence has begun to register in both corporate and political circles. Pointing to more than 50 million Hispanic consumers nationwide, Census 2010 Director Robert M. Groves cited the need to "know how race and ethnic groups are blending with others to effectively target messages with both cultures in mind." His message: There is opportunity in these markets.
And more Hispanics are attaining the real American dream by exercising their rights as citizens -- particularly by voting. In the 2008 presidential election, Latinos increased their share of the national vote to 9 percent, up from 8 percent in 2004.
In many Long Island legislative, Assembly and State Senate districts, Hispanics now account for more than 30 percent of the population. And data point to an uptick in local Hispanic voter participation. The 2010 election results from Suffolk hamlets such as Brentwood, Central Islip and Bay Shore -- communities with a booming Hispanic presence -- suggest a promising picture. Voter turnout in these communities increased when compared with the last nonpresidential election year, while surrounding neighborhoods with smaller Hispanic populations showed a decline in turnout.
Of course, it's no coincidence that in that 2010 election, officials from both parties made a concerted effort to engage Latino voters -- and they reaped a benefit for their efforts.
Therein lies a lesson for us all.
As Hispanics increase in numbers, their economic, educational and political progress won't be far behind. As business owners and employers, community leaders, and fellow neighbors and taxpayers, we can all benefit by tapping into this surge.
Pan-American Communications (PAC) is the first Hispanic-owned political consulting, public affairs, communications and business development firm on Long Island that specializes in bridging the gap between the “mainstream” and the fastest growing ethnic group in the nation - the Hispanic community.