WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - The recently released U.S. Census figures reflect the changing faces and voices of Palm Beach County.
The huge growth in the number of Hispanic residents within the past decade increasingly makes our community a more diverse one.
"I say like Miami used to be in the 1970's, that is how we look at it here now. You see it growing little by little," says Rafael Perez a local restaurant owner.
Rafael Perez is Cuban-American. He came from Miami in 1992 to start this restaurant, and his lunch guests reflect the faces of diversity.
"Its an opportunity for business if they get on the bandwagon and realize a lot of opportunity and money to be made with Hispanics in Palm Beach County," says Robert Gonzalez.
Robert's son, Bobby Gonzalez, is an aspiring lawyer who wants to build roots here and hopes growing diversity will be welcomed.
"One of the biggest things for Palm Beach County as I've grown up here is really I have seen the Hispanic community try to integrate and be part of the community," says Bobby Gonzalez.
The U.S. Census tells the story: Non-Hispanic whites are now 60 percent of the Palm Beach County population, down from 70 percent 10 years ago. Hispanics make up 19 percent of residents now, which is up from 12 percent in 2000. Non-Hispanic black residents, nearly 17 percent now, is up from 13 percent a decade ago.
Stephen Wright is a building contractor who's lived here for decades.
"I welcome it because you get a lot of the Hispanic people, who are tradespeople, and they are making up a bigger percentage of the work force and its happened for a reason. They are hard workers," says Wright.
250,000 Hispanics now in a county of 1.3 million means growing economic clout, and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce hopes more political muscle too.
"I just think we haven't come together as a group to wield our political influence so to speak," says Andre Varona, the CEO for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "But I think as the area grows and we assimilate into the business community and the political system, I think you are going to see more of that."
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