Count Rhode Island – yes that small state whack in the middle of New England – as evidence that the Hispanic population is not only growing nationwide, but they are becoming important in many new non-border states.
A story in the Providence Journal Sunday said that the fastest growing ethnic group in the state has been Hispanics, that according to Census Bureau’s American Survey program, which is not a part of the 2010 Census, but covers population patterNs every five years, shows that people who claim to be either Latino or Hispanic now make up nearly 12 percent of Rhode Island.
The story said directly that it is an up-and-coming group, centered in the urban core of the state and promises to reshape its cultural traditions, “much as the Irish, Italian and French did upon their arrival.”
The newspaper added: ” It can truly be said that, in Rhode Island, Hispanic is the new Italian.”
Two things make the two different migrations, which occurred decades apart, comparable. One is that in both cases most of the new immigrants are Catholics, and the second is that in both cases the population of each group grew exponentially in three decades.
“By 1900, about 9,000 Italian immigrants had settled in Rhode Island, according to the Italian American Historical Society. Within 30 years, their population rose above 100,000,” the Providence Journal story said.
It added that the 1970 U.S. Census counted 7,596 persons of Hispanic background. By 2009, “the Hispanic population rose by about 118,000 to 125,805.”
The other key element that makes the comparison valid is their predominantly Catholic faith. As many as 95 percent of those of Hispanics in Rhode Island come from the Dominican Republic, the largest Hispanic group in the state and overwhelmingly Roman Catholic.
“Like the Italians and Irish before them, Hispanic Rhode Islanders have become a political force to be reckoned with, exemplified by last year’s election of Angel Taveras, the first Hispanic mayor of Providence,” the story said.
Taveras was born in the United States of Dominican immigrant parents. He was raised by his mother in a poor neighborhood of Providence. He attended a Head Start program and eventually went to Harvard and Georgetown University where he obtained his law degree.