Philadelphia’s diverse makeup has gotten an extra boost in the last decade.
According to the 2010 Census report released this month, the Latino population rose 45.5 percent in Philadelphia since 2000, representing the state’s fastest-growing minority.
At Penn, Latinos compose 8.7 percent of the Class of 2014 — a rise from previous years, Wharton senior and former Latino Coalition chairwoman Wendy De La Rosa said.
“The Latino community has grown stronger,” De La Rosa said. “I think people feel like they’re more part of one community.”
In the north and south sections of Philadelphia, Latino residents have seen their numbers increase, particularly from east of Broad Street to the Delaware River.
“Go south of Washington Street, and you can see not only bodegas and mom-and-pop services but also professional groups,” La Casa director Johnny Irizarry said. “This shows not only growing numbers, but multicultural diversification within the Latino population.”
According to Irizarry, the “Latino” classification has opened up in recent years to not only include Puerto Ricans and those from the Caribbean, but also Mexicans, Central Americans, Colombians and Dominicans.
“Many Latinos come at a very young age, or are born in the States,” he said.
With data from 67 Pennsylvania counties, the U.S. Census Bureau also reported more than 80 percent of the state’s total population growth was driven by the Latino community in the last 10 years.
“We’re starting to see Latino professionals filter into West Philadelphia,” Irizarry said. “Though the size of the community is not as large as in North Philly, many are coming as families — not single male migrants like before”
Among 25 counties that saw their Latino populations rise, Philadelphia ranks the highest numerically with an addition of 58,683 Latino residents since 2000.
Penn scholars attribute cultural events and affordable rent as having attracted professionals and immigrants to the city’s fringes.
In recent years, Penn students have seen a redoubling of community initiatives with Club Colombia, the Puerto Rican Undergraduate Student Association and the revived La Vida Magazine.
Ezekiel Dixon-Roman, an assistant professor in the School of Social Policy and Practice, said that minority growth will also affect this year’s redistricting. “One of the things we’ll have to deal with is how minorities’ political interests will play out in redrawing lines of voting districts,” he said.
Dixon-Roman added that the new demographics will also add urgency to public policy reform. The growth in Latinos means a larger percentage of non-native English speakers and other challenges to curricula in public schools. “We’ll have to see how responsive the government is going to be with public schooling and undocumented immigrants,” he added.
In the meantime, Dixon-Roman said, the Latino rise has brought more culture and business to the city, with minorities filling jobs where there are “favorable possibilities.”
While politicians plan to finalize voting districts this year, Penn students of Latino descent say Penn Admissions needs to further reflect demographic changes with incoming classes.
“Diversity was something I was looking for when I was applying to college. I wanted to become part of physical community where some people looked like me,” De La Rosa said. “While my career at Penn is not all Latino-focused, places like La Casa enabled me to bond in a completely social setting.”Comments powered by Disqus
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