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brought to you by: EspreeNet News Service
Published September 2002

"Viva Latinos! Celebrating Latino Heritage One Person at a Time"
Lucy Sanchez (EspreeNet News Service)

Syracuse, NY -- Latinos have made tremendous contributions to American culture, politics, businesses and economy. They account for about 12 percent of the population and $220 billion dollars in buying power. From U.S. Congresswoman Nydia M. Velazquez to singing sensation Marc Anthony - Latinos have made their mark in society.

September 15 to October 15 has been proclaimed National Hispanic Heritage Month. There are a host of activities, concerts, parades and community festivals being held all over the US to celebrate and educate people about Latino culture. From Syracuse, NY to Los Angeles, CA there lies volumes of Latino struggles and triumphs; individual battles to taste freedom and smell success.

While history, politics and a promising future caused people of all ethnicities to come to America - many Latinos are adamant about keeping ties to their native lands. Many of them wave two flags - the US and that of their respective country. They truly have two homes, and appreciate what each of them has to offer.

Natalia Vergara, 23, of Syracuse said she travels to her homeland, Colombia at least once a year.

"I feel like I have one foot here and one foot in my country," said Vergara. "It's different because the only people who can truly understand me are those in this situation. My trips home keep me humble than anything."

Vergara said that although many parts of Colombia are poor, they are rich in family values.

"There's poverty in America put nothing compared to my country," she said sadly. "I've modernized here and am used to being very independent and there it's different. I had to get used to everyone depending on each other and being very touchy feely. We have strong family values and that's important to me. That's definitely why we're so close. If somebody sneezes, everybody knows about it."

Close-knit family values extend to the community "family" as well, said Santi Lopez, 30. The Syracuse resident emphasized the importance of expressing heritage in a town like Syracuse where "they don't have a lot of activities here for Latinos."

"It means a lot to me to be Dominican," Lopez said. "I represent my culture all the time - the music, the food: rice, beans, pasteles, and my language. That's what I was raised on and I'm proud of it."

Pride and patriotism are among several important traditions passed from generation to generation in the Latino community said Maria Maldonado.

"I just think we're blessed because there's so much in the Latino culture to be proud of - the music, the colorful style to us, the traditions," raved Maldonado. "They bring us all together."

The 24-year-old said she faced unique challenges growing up in the Southside of Syracuse.

"The biggest difference for me was is in the language barrier and the way we were all brought up," she added. "But we're really all the same. We're all looking for the same goals - to make Syracuse a better place to live."

Maldonado said she hopes that future activities and festivals will help "everyone unite and come together as one community."


  • There are 35.3 million Latinos in the US, about 12% of the nation's total population. (Not including the 3.8 million residents of Puerto Rico)
  • There are 28 million US residents age 5 and over who spoke Spanish at home. Slightly more than half also reported speaking fluent English.
  • 68% of the nationals Hispanic population was either foreign-born or had at least one parent who was foreign-born.
  • 57% of Hispanics 25 and over have at least a high school education.
  • 46% of Latinos own their own home.
  • 45% of Latinos voted in the 2000 Presidential elections.
  • There are 1.3 million Latino-owned businesses generating over $220 billion in sales.
  • There are 2.2 million Latinos in New York City - the largest of any city in the nation.

(*All figures based on the 2000 US Census Bureau Statistics)

comments about this story: SanchezL@SoulOfSyracuse.com

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