Few would argue that our community's position is precarious. On the one hand, we are a growing presence in the Commonwealth. In 1995, there were an estimated 344,068 Latinos living in Massachusetts, representing 5.6% of the total state population, a 20% increase since 1990. It is expected that the 2000 census will confirm that Latinos are indeed the largest minority group in the state. Latinos make up an even larger proportion of the total population of a number of key cities, including Lawrence (48%), Chelsea (39%), Holyoke (37%), Springfield (20%), and Boston (12%). Latino youth have formed the largest minority youth population since 1990. As a result, Latino school enrollments have grown to such a degree statewide that Latinos students now make up an even greater proportion of the total public school enrollments in Lawrence (78%), Holyoke (69%), Chelsea (65%), and Boston (26%).
This growth is beginning to bring heightened visibility. There are three Latinos serving as state representatives in Massachusetts. This is a major gain, considering that only one other Latino had ever previously been elected state representative. In the once economically depressed sections of Lawrence, Boston, and Springfield, Latino small business districts have emerged and are thriving by serving an ethnic market. The Latino community is adding to the area's cultural fabric through the arts, ethnic festivals, and the achievements of local sports heroes.
On the other hand, Latinos in Massachusetts continue to experience disproportionate and severe social and economic disadvantage. Consider the following facts: Forty-seven percent of Latino households and 55% of Latino children live below the poverty line; Latino students have the highest school dropout and MCAS failure rates in the state; Latinos are least likely to have health insurance; Latino homeownership rates lag behind most other groups in the state. In short, the overall condition of Latinos is poorer than any other population in Massachusetts, and even worse than Hispanics in most areas of the country.
Because of this situation, we, as a community, have much to gain from purposeful policy development. Yet, it seems that, along with other people of color, we are thrust into the spotlight when it comes to social problems and the need for scapegoats, but are rendered invisible when it comes to participation in strategic decision-making, public discourse, and resource allocation.
Bowen, Leslie; Hirales, Lillian; Marion, Mary Jo; Negretti, Giovanna; and Torres, Andrés, "Latino Agenda 2000" (2000). Gastón Institute Publications. 120.