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* This article first appeared in The Times Herald-Record on March 8, 2001. Used by permission.



Census figures reflect rise in Latino population locally

NEWBURGH: Latinos are gaining political and financial clout.

By Wayne A. Hall
The Times Herald-Record

Maria Maceda comes from Honduras' second largest city, San Pedro, where poverty grips people's lives.
Now she's invested her savings, in the Dolarito (everything's a buck) store on Newburgh's Broadway.
In small cities like Newburgh and Middletown, Latino population numbers are jumping, and the financial clout of Latinos is growing.
Preliminary year 2000 Census figures reported in yesterday's Washington Post project Hispanics are now on a population par with African-Americans.
So does this mean Hispanics are flexing newly developed political and cultural biceps? Yup, and to them, the census figures of Hispanic growth are old news.
"I saw it years ago," says Broadway music store owner Rene Campos, who is active on the YMCA's board of directors. But he wishes more Latinos were in positions where they could help with access to places where Spanish is rarely spoken, such as some hospitals.
And local politicians yesterday said they'll be glad to do some of the heavy lifting to put the Latino agenda up front.
"We're reaching out, registering more voters," says Orange County Democratic Party chair Jonathan Jacobson, a Newburgh lawyer. "We think that Newburgh city Mayor Andrew Marino's election was partly due to the statement during the election by (GOP hopeful) Mary Crabb that Latinos tend to be hard to reach because they're clannish."
"I don't think they know that (about the election outcome)," counters GOP county party Chairman John Hicks, a Warwick lawyer. "We're always eager to be inclusive."
While the raw figures aren't available yet for Newburgh and Middletown, they're expected any moment, says Middletown's economic development director, Neil Novesky. He's seeing Latinos making an impact culturally, economical and politically.
The numbers tell the story. "When I was a boy," says county Legislator Jeffrey Berkman, "the number of Hispanics in Middletown was about 2 percent." Now its 13 percent, according to the 1990 Census. It was the same in Newburgh, where Hispanics are 23 percent of the population, African-Americans 33 percent.
Will those numbers hold? If anything, they will change upwards, Novesky said.
Take a walk through Newburgh and you see the Latino numbers piling up behind a potential political floodgate.
There are Latino lawyers, bodegas, restaurants galore, a night club, all suggesting a growing clientele. There's even a taxi company in Newburgh sporting the name of the Mexican hometown Puebla for city's many Mexican-Americans.
"This is a good place to start a business," Maceda said.


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