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Hispanic Heritage Month: NYC's Latino Population Becomes More Diverse, Dispersed

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NY1 kicks off its Hispanic Heritage Month coverage with a look at the 2010 U.S. Census, which revealed an explosion in the city's Latino population. NY1's Cheryl Wills filed the following report.

Luis Reyes has been a keen observer of the Latino community over the last five decades. At the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, he has conducted considerable research, but he has never witnessed anything like what he sees now.

"The Latino population has dispersed throughout the city," says Reyes.

Even though the number of Hispanics fell for the first time in Manhattan, the 2010 U.S. Census shows there are 2.3 million Latinos in the city, surging 8.1 percent from 10 years ago.

The Hispanic community now makes up 28.6 percent of the city's population, compared to whites who are 33.3 percent, blacks who are 22.8 percent and Asians who are 12.6 percent.

With a jump in the Dominican population, the Bronx for the first time is a majority Latino borough, at 53.5 percent.

Queens is 27.5 percent Latino, Manhattan is 25.4 percent Latino, Brooklyn is 20 percent Latino and Staten Island is now up to 17.3 percent Latino.

Reyes emigrated to the Bronx from Puerto Rico back in 1946, when he was just a toddler. He says while the numbers change, many problems remain the same.

"For 50 years, an ongoing problem was a high dropout rate and low graduation rate," says Reyes.

But even he could not have predicted not just the widespread of the Hispanic population or its diversity.

The latest census shows the city's 723,621 Puerto Ricans make up the largest group of Hispanics in the city.

The count also recorded 576,701 Dominicans, 343,468 South Americans, 319,263 Mexicans and 151,378 Central Americans.

The figures impress Luis Miranda, the founder and former president of the Hispanic Federation, an organization of social service agencies that tries to pick up where government falls off.

"Together our numbers were much bigger than if we were just Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Colombians, Ecuadorians," says Miranda.

For Miranda, the not-for-profit sector, which can help Latino immigrants make the transition to the middle class, is hurting. Still, he calls New York City a special place for the Hispanic community.

"New York is this magical place with so many resources, so many take the challenge and the chance because they hope they'll make it," says Miranda.

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