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The Caribbean & Latin America

Regions that Contribute to our Local Population

The Caribbean & Latin America

CUBA: Cuban refugees have been resettling in Greensboro since the mid 1980’s. There are an estimated 300 Cubans in Guilford at this time.

CARIBBEAN: A coalition of Caribbean community groups representing various island nations collectively represent about 50 families. About 20 Haitian people with refugee protections have also resettled in Guilford.

HISPANIC/LATINO: (Different people prefer the Hispanic and/or Latino designation, depending on whether they want to identify their heritage with Spain or with Latin America- including indigenous and African heritages. Most people use their country of origin to identify themselves.)

This is by far the largest and growing immigrant group in Guilford and across North Carolina. Hispanics/Latinos are becoming the largest ethnic minority in the US. North Carolina is one of the fastest growing states for Latinos. Guilford Hispanic numbers according to the 2010 census place current figures at 34,826 for 7% of the local population. Almost none are refugees. People of Mexican descent represent slightly over 60% of the population, followed by people from Central America and Puerto Rico.

US CITIZENS: There are an undetermined number of Latino US citizens from Puerto Rico and the southwest US who have migrated to this area, primarily because of job opportunities. Many may experience some of the same cultural barriers as immigrants.

LATIN AMERICAN IMMIGRANTS: The predominant immigrant population across North Carolina is a growing and diverse Hispanic/Latino population. Most of these immigrants are from Mexico, though it is thought that all 26 countries are represented. Most Hispanic/Latinos have arrived since 1990. Growth is now primarily through births here. Poverty in Latin America and the availability of jobs in North Carolina affect migration patterns.

*Middle class business people, professionals, and students are a small but significant part of the Hispanic/Latino population in the Guilford area. Many of these people are from South America or Puerto Rico. Because of their bilingual skills and social status, they are often sought out as the Hispanic/Latino representatives for various community activities. They are sometimes placed in the difficult situation of speaking on behalf of the large working class population from Mexico who may have different values and cultural traditions.

*Guest workers are brought here through contracts with the Department of Labor for agricultural work. Though here legally, guest workers have few protections, do not know their rights, and are under the control of contractors who regulate their travel and contacts.  Though North Carolina has the largest guest worker population in the nation, few come to the predominantly urban Guilford County.

*Working class Hispanic/Latino non-refugee immigrants, who are at-risk because of language, discrimination, culture, economic and political barriers, represent the largest population. Very complex documentation issues and Latino fear of authority linked with the Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)- formerly known as Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), greatly hinders relationships with this growing immigrant population. Many cultures are represented including indigenous people who speak tribal languages. Construction workers are often contract workers who have no benefits. Some have dropped out of the migrant farm labor stream because of the economic opportunity for settled residents. Some see their work here as temporary and expect to rejoin families in Latin America as soon as financially feasible.

The Hispanic/Latino population poses some of the greatest opportunities and challenges for acculturation. They are at the core of the North Carolina economic boom of the nineties as farm, factory, and construction workers. Their taxes finance many of the state’s services and resources but those who are not citizens are barred from using many of these services.  They now have young children born here who are US citizens, growing up as bilingual and bicultural North Carolinians. These youth will be the state’s investment in the future as we move further toward being a global economy and a bicultural state.

IMPACT:  Guilford County has seen a dramatic shift in demographics in the past generation.  The Triad growth in the last two decades is part of a national pattern that represents a shift in our history of immigrant acculturation.  Historically immigrants primarily settled in large coastal cities, and then the second generation began to move to other parts of the country.  Beginning in the nineties the nation began to see first generation immigrants settling in moderate sized cities across the country where there were job opportunities and a welcoming community.  Guilford County parallels the rest of the state with the Latino influx, serving as having the fifth largest Latino population in the state after Wake, Mecklenburg, Forsyth, and Durham. However, Guilford is unique in the diversity of other immigrant communities.  The fast growth in population and the need for bilingual and bicultural services poses challenges. By fostering positive community attitudes and strategies these challenges can be met.

Simultaneously, new North Carolinians bring broader cultural resources and networks for further cultural competency and economic development.  Latinos and other immigrant communities become part of our state’s resources.  This acculturation process in Guilford County is a continuation of the unique and diverse cultural history of the United States.