Oklahoma census: State Hispanic population grows 85 percent since 2000
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.
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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.