Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Influx of Latinos Changing Midwest and They're More Likely to Be Working Than Whites or Blacks, Report Shows

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Influx of Latinos Changing Midwest and They're More Likely to Be Working Than Whites or Blacks, Report Shows

Article excerpt

Roberto Martinez nods his head, and 17 rag-wielding men race to the dripping wet Toyotas and Saturns rolling out of the Evanston Car Wash.

Martinez manages this north suburban strip of sudsy pavement. And he's proud of it.

It's just the kind of opportunity Martinez's family said he would find in Chicago when they encouraged him to move from California to Chicago five years ago. He was born in Jalisco, Mexico, 32 years ago.

"I wasn't going anywhere in Los Angeles," said Martinez, who dropped out of high school there to work full time. "I'd been laid off my warehouse job. In all the years I was working there, I could never save any money or take a vacation."

But in the three years Martinez has been working at the car wash in Evanston, Ill., he has made three trips back to Mexico and has put money in the bank.

Immigrants like Martinez are the reason for the "browning of the Midwest," a transformation of the heartland that took hold during the 1980s.

For every white person who moved out of the Midwest during the 1980s, more than two minorities moved in, according to a report published recently by Michigan State University's Julian Samora Research Institute.

Latinos, primarily Mexican immigrants coming to Chicago, drove the population growth for the region, accounting for 56 percent of the Midwest's population increase of more than 800,000, the report said. From 1980 to 1990, more than 330,000 whites left the Midwest.

Although population growth of Mexican origin was the strongest in the 12-state Midwestern region studied, Puerto Ricans, Cubans and Central and South Americans also increased their numbers.

The Midwest's Latino population now exceeds 2 million and is growing far faster than the rest of the region's population. That means that the Midwest will not be left out of what the Census Bureau predicts will be the "browning of America," a process that by 2010 will make Hispanics the nation's largest minority group.

"It means, among other things, that conventional views of our population, that we're either black or white, will have to change," said Robert Aponte, who co-wrote the report with Marcelo Siles. "Multiculturalism is not just an academic abstraction; it is a reality. …

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