1.02.2007

Latino Grits

I am pleased to see that the NYTimes is running a series on Latinos in the Old South. The series is relatively new, with the most recent installment published on Sunday, December 31, 2006. It gives a real human face to the numerous posts in U.S.Taino/American Taino on the changing face and politics of the Old South.

This series includes three articles and all are on the changes wrought by the exploding Latino population in the Atkinson County area of southern Georgia. Below are links to the three articles. I'll keep a look our for additions to the series.

(Please note that will will need to complete a free subscription to access the older articles.)

Hispanic Teenagers Join Southern Mainstream December 31, 2006
Article #3 is about a popular high school boy of a high school that until recently had few Latinos. The boy is a Georgia-born Latino (Puerto Rican father and Mexican mother) and this fall was voted Homecoming King along with a Latina Homecoming Queen, the first Latino royal couple ever for the fast-changing Georgia community.

A Racial Rift That Isn’t Black and White October 3, 2006
Article # 2 is a about the tension that exists between the fast-growing Latino population and the local African Americans. The article focuses on two ministers that work together to serve their respective congregations and work to heal rifts caused by economic competition and cultural/racial differences.

In Georgia, Immigrants Unsettle Old Sense of Place August 4, 2006
Article #1 sets the stage for the series by presenting data and outlining the major themes of population growth and the resulting inter-group tensions. The South grew to 2.4 million from 562,663 between 1990 and 2005. The specific demographics of Atkinson County, Georgia, near the Florida border, are highlighted because the area has become a "cauldron of demographic change". One theme that emerges is that African Americans as well as Whites feel overwhelmed by the changes. Latinos are now the largest minority group in the county.

If you look at the map you see the geographic proximity of southern Georgia to Latino Florida. Cuban exiles settled southern Florida around 1959 after Fidel Castro took over Cuba. Puerto Rican from the Northeast and the island settled central Florida in large numbers starting in the 1980s. Mexican immigrants have been migrating into southern Georgia since the late 1990s.

The article concludes with this observation from Olga Contreras-Martinez, a naturalized citizen and college graduate: “I’m a Latina Grits — a Latina girl raised in the South. So I’m still here.”