Like the rest of New Mexico, Roosevelt and Curry counties saw a leap in the Hispanic population in the last decade, according to the latest U.S. Census numbers.
Roosevelt County’s Hispanic population age 18 and older grew 34.2 percent from 2000 to 2010, according to the census. The county’s adult Anglo population, on the other hand, decreased by 2.4 percent.
In Curry County, the Hispanic population 18 years old and older increased 45.7 percent, while the adult non-Hispanic white population increased 9.6 percent, according to the census.
Census numbers for children weren’t available.
Geni Flores, Eastern New Mexico University coordinator of bilingual and English as a Second Language education, attributed the Hispanic population growth to the area’s economic stability.
“People go where the jobs are,” said Flores, who is active in Hispanic issues.
Clovis City and Curry County Commissioner Bobby Sandoval said he attributed the local Hispanic growth to the increase in the population in the state and nation.
According to an Albuquerque Journal article, the number of Hispanics in New Mexico grew about 24.6 percent since 2000, while the number of non-Hispanic whites increased about 2.5 percent. The state’s population is 46 percent Hispanic or Latino and 41 percent non-Hispanic white, according to the Journal.
Research and Polling Inc. President Brian Sanderoff said in the article that Hispanic people tend to be younger and have more children than Anglos, which could impact the education system. It’s not clear how much of the growth is due to migration and how much from birth rates exceeding death rates, according to the Journal.
Flores said New Mexico has a native Hispanic population that existed before the United States and adds its flavor to the culture.
“This (Hispanic growth) is not something that should be feared but an opportunity for cultures to merge and enjoy the best each has to offer,” she said.
Flores said immigration isn’t a threat to the English language. While first-generation immigrants struggle with English, she said, their children learn the language and their grandchildren speak English predominately.
In politics, Flores doesn’t believe a larger Hispanic population will mean a shift to the left.
“What I find among many Hispanics and immigrants is that they’re conservative at least socially,” she said, although she added a portion of them are more liberal.
Flores thinks political conservatives can find common ground with many Hispanic citizens and immigrants.
In education, she hopes the increasing Hispanic population will encourage the development of dual-language programs so Spanish speakers learn English and English speakers learn Spanish.
Sandoval said Clovis has always been diverse, and he doesn’t expect the increasing Hispanic population to change that diversity. He said cultures have always worked together in the community.
“Clovis has never been the type of community that considers a person’s ethnicity,” Sandoval said.