Hispanic population grows in SW Louisiana

More than half the growth in the U.S. population between 2000 and 2010 is because of the increase in the Hispanic or Latino population. The Lake area's Hispanic population has doubled within the past decade, though it's still a small percentage of the overall community.

We looks at how this growing segment of the community is faring the Lake area. It was around the time of Hurricane Rita when increasing numbers of Hispanic people came to the Lake area-- helping with home re-construction and replacing roofs. No doubt some were people who follow the work, whereas others stayed and made a home here.

According to census data in the year 2000 Calcasieu Parish had a Hispanic population of 2463 people or 1.3% of the overall population. The 2010 census shows that population has doubled to 4945 Hispanic people in Calcasieu Parish, still only 2.6% of the overall population. McNeese Professor of Economics Dr. Mike Kurth says Hispanic people who have come here and work hard are an asset to the community. "I think even the illegal immigrants contribute to our economy. Quite a number of studies have shown us to say that, well they don't pay taxes is not correct because they pay sales taxes, they pay property taxes when they pay their rent. The other thing is even if they were legal and they could pay taxes, and even could pay taxes, less than half the people in America pay taxes. Their incomes would be so low they would simply qualify for the earned income credit and we'd have to pay them even more money."

Dalia Matheus is the president of the International  Club here in the Lake area. She points out that people come from other countries for a variety of reasons. She had a successful law practice in Venezuela but moved here because she fell in love and got married. "I never expected I would be here fifteen years ago. Somebody ask me what do you expect to be, I would never expect to leave my country. I fell in love with a wonderful man and I had to decide at some point. I was back and forth Venezuela and here two years and had to decide I have to be with my husband."

She says there are many challenges for people who come to a new country, not the least of which may be the language barrier. One purpose for the International Club is to allow people of the community to become acquainted with those of other cultures.  "There's so much to learn about music, art, food. It's important to know what is in the other countries. What do they bring to you."

Tomorrow we meet a family of five sisters from Mexico who are trying to make a go of it in the Lake area where they've opened a new restaurant. For more on what the new census data shows about changing demographics in our community click here.

Over the next few nights on nightcast we'll explore the subject and how the new members of the community are faring.

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