On June 1st, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, the Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute, the Hispanic Federation, and the Council of the City of New York will join together in hosting a brand new one-day annual conference on New York City’s Latino communities to examine the challenges and opportunities facing the City’s Latinos, assess policy priorities, and develop an action agenda for today and tomorrow.
There are more than 2.4 millions Latinos residing in New York City, according to the NYC Department of City Planning. That’s an estimated 29% of the city’s total population. But as New Yorkers, it doesn’t come as a surprise (there’s a reason MTA reminds us, si ves algo, di algo). The Bronx, for example, is majority Latino, 54% to be exact. There are also neighborhoods such as El Barrio, Jackson Heights, Washington Heights, Sunset Park, and so on, which are familiar to most New Yorkers as Latino enclaves. In short, there are a lot of us and we’re spread throughout the city among 8.5 million other New Yorkers.
But do we think of New York as a Latino city, like Miami perhaps? Should it be more bilingual as well? There may be 200 languages spoken in New York City, but nearly one-quarter of residents speak Spanish according to a 2012 report. Maybe it depends on who you ask, but in terms of New York City, there definitely needs to be a conversation had—for Latinos and by Latinos.
Luckily, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies and several other partners will be hosting the first-ever annual conference on Latinos in New York City. It’s called S.O.L., or the Summit on Latinos and will take place on June 1st at the Silberman School of Social Work in East Harlem. There, panels and speakers will spend the day addressing both the present state and future of the Latino community in New York City.
Going back to the numbers, they tell a lot of different stories. Dominicans, for instance, have become a significant presence in the city, surpassing one million. In fact, more Dominicans live in New York City than anywhere in the world besides Santo Domingo. Not surprisingly, those kinds of numbers have translated into political representation—just last year, Adriano Espaillat was elected to the US Congress as the first Dominican-American. In general, Latinos have become nearly one-quarter of the New York City electorate, mirroring the importance of the Latino vote on the national level.
Moreover, in the last twenty-five years, there has been a gradual shift in demographics among the Latino population. Puerto Ricans are no longer the nearly 50% majority they once were. Yet New York City still has the largest Puerto Rican population of any city in the world—not to mention the lasting impact our presence has had on the city. Simply put, Puerto Ricans in New York are an institution.
Yet neither Puerto Ricans nor Dominicans will be able to keep up with the surging Mexican population in New York City, which is projected to soon outpace both. From 1990 to 2010, the Mexican population has grown from just 58,410 to 342,699. Rounding out the top five are Ecuadorians and Colombians, which live primarily in Queens. Combined with higher birth rates and ongoing immigration, the Latino population is likely to continue increasing and eventually become the largest ethnic/racial group in New York City.
That means also preparing for future generations of Latinos in New York City. Youth and education will be featured as themed panels during the Summit. If we look at the under-18 population of the city, for example, then Latinos make up 36% of the overall population. Latinos are also the youngest demographic in the city, with a median age of 31.
Another factor will be the number of foreign-born Latinos versus the growing native-born population. In 2010, the foreign-born Latino population—including island-born Puerto Ricans—was 1,241,569, or roughly half of the total Latino population. Yet recent population growth among Latinos in New York City has been largely fueled by the growing number of Latinos born here in New York City. Between 1990 and 2010, for example, New York’s domestic Latino population increased by 53% from just over 750,000 to over 1.1 million people.
In the end, the numbers only tell a portion of the story. Which is why the Latino community should take this opportunity to come together and learn about how those numbers contribute to making New York, Nueva York, the greatest city in the world. To learn more about S.O.L. and to RSVP, please visit the event page by clicking here.