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CT's Latino population continues to grow and confront disparities

Maricarmen Cajahuaringa
/
Connecticut Public
UConn professor Charles Venator Santiago (above) says residents identifying as white in Connecticut have declined from roughly 78% to 62% between 2000 and 2022.

Latino legislators and community members were proud of many changes across Connecticut at the 10th Latino legislative summit, Orgullo y Poder.

Residents identifying as white in Connecticut declined from roughly almost 79% in 2000 to 62% in 2022, according to Charles Venator Santiago, a professor at the University of Connecticut.

Unofficial U.S. Census estimates from 2022 suggest that the Hispanic community is on track to comprise one-quarter of the state's population in the near future due to its younger demographics and are anticipated to be a critical part of the labor force of the next generation, according to Venator Santiago.

Despite the growing influence of the Latino community, disparities still need addressing.

“We have to make it easier for people to get into college and stay in college,” Venator Santiago said. “A lot of Puerto Ricans and Latinos enter college, but they don't graduate. So you need small business ownership, capital stock funds and you also need to create the conditions that enable people to enter the labor market.

“This is becoming a state with an elderly white population that is usually living on fixed incomes, that is retired, that is consuming a lot of resources as a result of age. And that is not necessarily contributing to the economy the same way as other populations.”

State Sen. Patricia B. Miller, a Democrat and chair of the legislature's Black and Puerto Rican caucus, acknowledged the contributions of Latino advocates and legislators. Miller stressed the importance of cultural exchange by sharing her personal appreciation for aspects of Latino culture, such as music and food.

“I want to thank the Latino members of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus,” Miller said. “Yes, it says Puerto Rican, but we have people from Brazil, Argentina, we have individuals from different parts of the world; we need your voice because this is the people’s house.”

Despite the growing and changing influence of Connecticut's wider Latino community, several disparities persist, especially in housing according to Venator Santiago, where the community has the lowest homeownership rates.

“And this community has the highest monthly gross rent increase of all populations in the state,” Venator Santiago added.

Other presenters pointed to programs that may help alleviate those disparities including conventional and government-insured loans like FHA and VA mortgages and down payment assistance programs such as the "Time to Own,” which provides up to $50,000 in assistance for qualified buyers.

Organizers remained encouraged that more change may be possible if the Latino community can maintain and expand its engagement through voting and civic involvement.

State Rep. Juan Candelaria, D-New Haven, called for participation beyond voting for those who may be working towards citizenship.

“They are part of our community, they are part of our fabric, and we encourage them to be participants in local communities, in their local governments in their state governments so that their voices can be heard,” Candelaria said.

The summit is a time to foster a vision of diversity and inclusion, according to Candelaria. Connecticut residents from Puerto Rico were reminded they can participate in the upcoming U.S. presidential elections upon changing residency.

Gov. Ned Lamont said he was grateful to the summit attendees, emphasizing the importance of inclusivity and representation from the Latino, Puerto Rican, and Hispanic communities. He underscored the state's commitment to providing opportunities for homeownership, job training, and entrepreneurship.

“The money we're putting in place to help people in their communities and opportunity to own their own home so it's easy for you to get your first job and more importantly easier for you to be able to start your own business,” Lamont said.

Maricarmen Cajahuaringa is a journalist with extensive experience in Latino communities' politics, social issues, and culture. She founded Boceto Media, a digital Spanish-language newspaper based in Connecticut. Maricarmen holds a Bachelor's in Social Work from Springfield College, and a Master's in Journalism and Media Production from Sacred Heart University. As a reporter for Connecticut Public, she is dedicated to delivering accurate and informative coverage of the Hispanic/Latino population in the region. Maricarmen is an experienced and passionate journalist who strives to bring a voice to the stories of her community.

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