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October 1995, Volume 1, Number 4

West Texas Latinos

West Texas is experiencing a dramatic demographic shift. In 1960
only 11 counties had an Hispanic population of at least 15 percent.
In 1990, 49 of the region's 101 countries have Hispanic populations
of more than 20 percent, a threshold at which experts say Hispanics
begin to affect local politics. In several counties, experts believe,
Hispanics may have become a majority of the population since the 1990
census.

The rest of Texas has faced similar changes. The number of
Hispanics statewide has increased 44 percent in the last 10 years.
Traditionally, Mexicans passed through West Texas on their way to the
Midwest. More recently, many have begun to stay in the area.

The Latinization of West Texas has affected everything from the
menus at local restaurants to politics. According to one political
expert, more Hispanics are running for office. However, it is still
difficult for Hispanics candidates to get elected. At-large
elections, and higher voter turnout among whites, reportedly keep
Hispanics out of public office. Many Hispanics are not of voting age.

According to the census figures, the percentage of school-aged
Hispanics is normally 10 percent higher than the percentage of
Hispanics in the general population in the six largest counties of
West Texas. School officials say they need more Hispanic and
bilingual teachers, especially in rural areas, where schools offer
lower pay and less opportunity.

Even though more farm workers are migrating through western Texas,
the USDA announced that it was contributing $2.5 million to build a
240-bed center for traveling farm workers along Arkansas 29, just off
Interstate 30 in Hope, Arkansas. Arkansas will contribute 10 percent
of the cost of the center, which will have 60-four bed units.

About 40,000 people reportedly stop at the existing center in Hope
between March and December each year.



Migrant farm workers may get new labor center, Associated Press,
October 6, 1995. James Garcia, "Hispanic population reshaping West
Texas," Austin American-Statesman, August 20, 1995.


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