FEBRUARY 2003

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Number One!
From El Diario
January 30, 2003

By Lorraine Cortes Vasquez

Last week the Census office confirmed what we already knew: Hispanics constitute the largest minority sector in the United States, surpassing African-Americans. There are already 37 million Latinos, while the black population is only 36.2 million.

Since 2000 census, the Hispanic population hae grown 4.7 percent, while the African American population grew only 1.5 percent, and the non-hispanic white population grew 0.3 percent.

This advance makes us both happy and proud, especially because of the posibilities for progress that it represents.

But we should also remember that the rising population — which will continue into the future at possibly an even greater rate — will bring to light evidence of many of our problems, and willl aggravate others.

The Hispanic Federation, and its 76 community service organizations in New York, New Jersy and Connecticut, fight daily to aid the Latino population with these problems.

Growth Explosion

The explosive growth of our community is in part due to high birth rates, especially for in younger age groups and among those with the least economic resources. It is also due to immigration from Latin America.

This points to large problems that come from the need to pay attention to maternal care and and primary education for the new generation. It also points to the needs of immmigrants — many of whom are undocumented, and 25 percent of whom do not have US citizenship — who in many cases do not have access to the same services as citizens.

On a national level, more than one in three hispanics (35.1 percent) are under 18 years old. In New York hispanics constitute the largest sector of school age children.

Our children have the highest dropout rates in the country.

In New York, for example, the dropout rate is 25.9 percent. Hispanic Federation organizations, like the Dominican Alliance (Alianza Dominicana), ASPIRA, the Point (el Puente), Amber School (la Escuela Ambar) and the Committee for Hispanic Families and Children (la Comite para Familias y Ninos Hispanos) dedicate themselves to helping our community overcome this and other educational problems.

These efforts will redouble when the Latino Coalition for Education gets rolling. The group now organizes the Hispanic Federation, ASPIRA, and others.

We also have grave problems with health care. More than 36 percent of adult Latinos lack medical insurance, and our population is twice as likely than the American population as a whole to suffer from diabetes. We also have elevated risks of ashma, Hepatitis C, cervical cancer, and HIV/AIDS.

The most recent data indicates that Latinos constitute 33 percent of new HIV cases, a rate much higher than white, non hispanic New Yorkers.

To face this crisis, some time ago the Hispanic Federation organized the vast and succesful coalition Latinos United Against AIDS, and more recently formed a coalition for the defense of the health of the Latino community.

Besides relying on organizations like the Hispanic Federation, we as Latinos have to raise our political representation and influence, because to really deal with problems like health care, education and ecnomic development, we will need access to municipal, state, and federal funds.

The most direct manner to obtain these resources is through solid political representation, which we will only gain when we succeed in becoming citizens, and when we register to vote and then actually vote. In all elections.

Translated From Spanish by Joshua Brustein

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