–submitted by Linn Roth; photo by Mike Engelberger
In his presentation “Listening to Their Stories: How Latinos Survive and Thrive in Rural and Urban Wisconsin,” Professor Armando Ibarra of UW Extension summarized data from his recent studies to illustrate how the state’s demographics have significantly changed over the last three decades and how they will continue to change in the future. For example, Latinos are much more widely dispersed throughout Wisconsin today, and locally. Latinos now constitute 6.6% of Madison’s population and 20% of Fitchburg’s populace.
Over the last 25 years, Dane County’s Latino population has exploded from 5,000 to about 32,000, although that number is probably a substantial undercount due to the immigration status of many people. More importantly, this growth will continue to occur, regardless of changes to immigration law or border control.
Yet, even with a strong work and family ethic, the Latino community has not enjoyed full integration into our economic, social and political culture. However, given that the Latino community is now an integral part of the Wisconsin economy, e.g. 80% of our dairy products are handled by Latinos, that cultural integration will inexorably move forward. As Professor Ibarra stressed, Latinos are essential to the economic and cultural prosperity of the US, and we should welcome all individuals, regardless of race or nationality, to contribute to and participate in the promise of our democracy.
If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video online.