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Oklahoma City home to hidden population of undocumented people

Newcomers lack “common storm sense” when it comes to Oklahoma's severe weather.
BY JULIANA KEEPING AND HANNAH COVINGTON Modified: July 14, 2013 at 3:19 pm •  Published: July 14, 2013
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Samuel Cifuentes dreamed of a better life.

He endured beatings, hunger and robberies on a perilous journey through Mexico to reach his American dream: to some day raise enough money to build a house in his home country, Guatemala.

Cifuentes met Florinda Santos in Oklahoma City, married her, and they had a son, Alex. The parents were not legal citizens, Cifuentes' cousin, Octavio Aguilar said.

Oklahoma City is home to thousands of undocumented Hispanic residents, at least 44,000, according to 2010 Pew Hispanic Center figures.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Oklahoma City's Hispanic population grew about 100 percent between 2000 and 2010, to just more than 100,038, or about 17.2 percent of the city's population.

The census defines Hispanic or Latino as a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Hispanic culture or origin, regardless of race.

Cifuentes worked two restaurant jobs to provide for his family and send money to relatives in La Esperanza, a little village with a name meaning “hope.”

Guatemala is a beautiful country where life is hard, Aguilar said. A civil war that raged for nearly 40 years ended in 1996. Crime and corruption are a part of daily life, he said.

The word from back home is that things in Guatemala are harder lately.

“There is much delinquency, too much corruption,” Aguilar said. “It's everywhere and everybody.”

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