At the La Michoacana Meat Market, Stephen Hodges is a minority.
Hodges, 44, of Mustang, was there Tuesday to pick up three pounds of freshly cut fajita meat.
The Hispanic grocery store on SW 29 was recommended by an employee, but Hodges is familiar with the neighborhood because he grew up in the area. And the changes since his youth have been drastic.
“It's gone from an area of poor white people to Mexican people,” said Hodges, who is white.
His observations are in line with Census Bureau data released Tuesday showing an 85 percent increase in Oklahoma's Hispanic population over the past decade.
People identifying themselves as Hispanic or Latino now represent nearly 9 percent of the state's population, slightly surpassing Native Americans as the largest minority group in the state.
There were about 332,000 Hispanics in Oklahoma in 2010.
The new data also showed a continuation of the overall trend of suburban counties picking up population, while rural areas become even more sparsely populated.
About one-third of the Hispanic population lives in Oklahoma County, where they make up 15 percent of the county's population in the 2010 Census. Tulsa County had more than 66,500 Hispanics, or 11 percent of the county's population.
Hispanics can be of any race, according to the Census Bureau's definition.
Leaders in the Hispanic community in Oklahoma City say they are not surprised at the growth.
Jorge Hernandez, executive director of Capitol Hill Main Street program, said Hispanics are attracted to Oklahoma for the same reasons others are — job opportunities, the low cost of housing and family values.
“It's a slower pace here than in many large cities and Hispanic families want that for their children,” Hernandez said. “More are staying here and becoming homeowners and raising their families here.”
Hernandez, 38, and his wife, Brenda Hernandez, 32, were starring Tuesday in a bilingual commercial for Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. aimed at informing Spanish-speaking Oklahomans about weatherization and energy conservation programs.
Jorge Hernandez said the commercial is exemplary of how corporations are recognizing the Hispanic population growth in this state.
“People are starting to get it — we're not invisible, and we have money to spend,” Hernandez said.
Twenty years ago, the city had one Spanish radio station and one Spanish-language newspaper.
Now there are four newspapers catering to Hispanics, three radio stations and four television stations, he said.
“Now literally in some areas if you don't speak Spanish, you might find your self feeling like you're in a different world,” Hernandez said.
The number of Hispanic-owned businesses has increased from 180 to 300 in the past three years, according to a study by the Greater Oklahoma City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
A campaign that encouraged Hispanics to fill out their 2010 Census questionnaire may have contributed to the spike in their population numbers, said David Castillo, executive director of the Hispanic chamber.
could've been factor
Castillo said all of the population growth among Hispanics cannot be attributed to Hispanics moving to Oklahoma.
He said some of the boom is the Hispanic birthrate, which is higher than other groups.
Overall, Hispanics who live in the U.S. have higher rates of fertility than whites, blacks or Asians. And among Hispanics, the foreign born have higher rates of fertility than native born, the Pew Hispanic Center reported.
Castillo said educating Hispanics about the census and encouraging them to fill out their census questionnaires also may have contributed to the spike.
The 2000 Census did a poor job of counting Hispanics,” Castillo said. “This time more education was done in the Hispanic community about the census and its importance.”
Most of the state's counties showed increases in Hispanic population.
At almost 42 percent, Texas County in the Panhandle had the highest proportion of Hispanic population.
More than 8,600 of the county's 20,640 residents identified themselves as Hispanic.
That was followed by Harmon and Blaine counties, both of which had Hispanic populations in excess of 24 percent.
The decennial census does not ask questions about immigration status.
But a recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center said Oklahoma had an estimated75,000 undocumented immigrants in 2010.
That's up from an estimated 55,000 in 2007.