City Ranks No. 4 in Study of Fairness to Hispanics; Economic, Educational Opportunity and Residential Integration Examined

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Soergel

Another week, another ranking of cities on important issues. Only this time, the Jacksonville metro area came out near the top.

Jacksonville ranks fourth in the country when looking at how Hispanics compare with non-Hispanic whites when it comes to residential integration and economic and educational opportunities.

That's according to a study by the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan research group based in Washington, D.C. Looking at the top 100 metro areas, it put Jacksonville behind only Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Pittsburgh and the Portland, Maine, area.

Medardo Monzon, new president of the First Coast Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, stressed that while he hadn't seen the report, "It feels right. I have noticed a positive change since coming to Jacksonville in 2003."

Monzon, a native of Colombia who has been in the U.S. since 1981, runs an international consulting firm.

"Overall I'd say that, while there's some work to be done, it's a favorable environment," he said.

Maria Machin, who moved to the U.S. from Cuba at age 3, is more pessimistic.

She gives Jacksonville credit for its diverse neighborhoods, where Hispanics live alongside many others. And the area's large military population includes many Hispanics who are fairly well off.

But she said many Hispanics - a diverse group from many different cultures - are stereotyped, and their voices are not yet as influential in the community as their numbers.

"We don't all live in trailer parks," said Machin, who's helped formed a chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, a civil-rights group. "We strive for middle class, we're hard workers. But they think we're uneducated or we don't know our rights or we pick tomatoes in the field."

For its report, the Urban Institute looked at five factors, giving grades from A to F as it looked at differences for Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites: How segregated are neighborhoods? …