The 21st annual Hispanic festival is in progress this weekend in downtown Tulsa. And it's the largest Hispanic festival the city's ever had. There are nearly 45,000 Hispanics currently living in Tulsa County. That's a significant increase compared to three years ago when there were only about 16,000. "It's booming," said Francisco Trevino. "You can see all it over Tulsa at construction sites. Those are the people that you see, but you don't see the people working behind the scenes at restaurants and hospitals."
Many Hispanic residents say Tulsa appeals to them because of a low crime rate, good schools and employment opportunities. "It's the jobs, and it's not as bad as other cities with gangs," said Tulsa resident Josephine Olmos.
Many Hispanics say once they moved to Tulsa, they realized how nice the people were and that they wanted to stay. But they say it is even better now that more of their people are joining them. "It makes me feel at home because I miss my people," said Angelica Moreno. "After living in Los Angeles where it's a diverse mix of Mexican, Hispanic and Latin people, I love it because it's making me feel comfortable."
Tulsa's democratic and republican parties are trying to reach out to the Hispanic population. They say this group's growth will have a tremendous impact on elections. Trevino agrees. He says this festival helps a lot of people understand how many different cultures are lumped under the name Hispanic.
"When you talk about Hispanics we have the Puerto Ricans, we have Cubans, we have the Spanish, we have Latin Americans, we have Mexicans so you're talking to a lot of people," he said. "And this festival is a kind of get-together to better know each other and say we're here. We're here to stay. Let's work for a better Tulsa."
The Hispanic festival runs until midnight Friday and from noon to midnight Saturday.