Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Reaching out to Hispanics in Recreation: The Hispanic Population Looks at Recreation Differently-Identifying Those Differences Can Help Agencies Welcome Them with Open Arms

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Reaching out to Hispanics in Recreation: The Hispanic Population Looks at Recreation Differently-Identifying Those Differences Can Help Agencies Welcome Them with Open Arms

Article excerpt

For Victor Aguilera, life in the United States is about hard work. Six days a week he shovels manure, repairs fences or stacks hay on a horse farm. His day off is often spent alone in the house he shares with two men, completing laundry and housework.

But one night a week he is a star, the featured player in Lexington, Ky.'s, growing Hispanic Soccer League. Soccer provides a release from work, a connection to home, meaning a few hours when Mexico isn't so far away. Aguilera says, "It's the only thing outside of work that we have here. Work, sleep and soccer. That, what I do."

Raul Diaz says that soccer gives him a chance to relax, provides him confidence and has been the primary avenue for adjusting to life in America. Aguilera says, "Soccer has given me friends. It's given me recognition. People know me. I'd be so bored without it.--"Lexington Herald-Leader, July 31, 2004

The American population is becoming more and more diverse, with Hispanic-Americans as the dominant three within this changing dynamic. As of 2004, the U.S. Hispanic population became 14.3 percent of the total population, already surpassing its 2003 estimate of the largest minority group in the United States.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the Hispanic population will reach 80 million by the year 2020, comprising one in five U.S. residents. This growth in diversity presents recreation managers and leaders with new challenges and opportunities. As our society becomes more diverse, recreation professionals must think differently to broaden the scope of programs to meet the needs of diverse groups of people, like Raul Diaz.

This growing diversity means recreation professionals are expected to have knowledge of diverse groups to provide them with satisfactory services. Hispanics have identifiable recreational characteristics due to their culture, traditions and family relationships that are necessary to determine in the successful provision of facilities and programs.

The Hispanic population values leisure, and 74 percent report that leisure time is spent mostly or exclusively with other Hispanics. Within the realm of "leisure," casual, informal gathering of friends and family is the preferred activity. Leisure does not have to mean engaging in a specific activity; rather, "spending time together" becomes the activity.

While Hispanics spend two-thirds of what non-Hispanics spend on recreational trips, they over-index on spending in two key areas of recreation: bicycle purchases and rentals, and rentals of RV's. "Spending the day at the park" is an enormously popular choice for Hispanic families, and park activities range from cookouts to softball and soccer games, to riding bikes or simply soaking up the sun and listening to music.

It is important to note that the term Hispanic applies to any of 22 Spanish-speaking countries, including Mexico, Cuba, Columbia, Venezuela, Argentina, Honduras, as well as the United States and Puerto Rico.

Hispanic recreation follows cultural traditions that make nature and family-oriented activities popular. Hispanics in general, enjoy the "gathering" type of activities versus the organized type of activity that characterizes much of the municipal recreation landscape. The influence of socialization plays a large part on the recreation experience, thus the need to provide a variety of facilities for social gathering usage. "Since I grew up in Venezuela years ago, I find myself even noel not wanting to undertake or get interested in long-term activities outside my home," says Ignacia Perez, a 72-year-old Hispanic. "I dare to say that probably 99 percent of the Latin American people of my generation feel the same way. We were pretty much like the 'Walton's' family--closeness and home customs."

The importance of family can be explained through the Hispanic culture. Research has shown that Hispanics tend to participate in larger, extended family units due to their strong cultural focus on the extended family. …

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