Tulsa's Hispanic community growing

Thursday, September 14th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Wednesday night KOTV Channel 6 broadcast the CBS network premiere of the annual Latin American Grammy Awards show. It's a sign of the times. Growth in the Latin-American population is happening all over America, including Green Country. The same thing that has been attracting folks to our state ever since the Land Run days is still attracting people now. Emerging ethnic groups remind us that the Sooner State is still the land of opportunity.

A stroll through Tulsa’s Plaza Santa Cecilia is like seeing a little piece of Mexico. That's the whole idea. "We're trying to follow the same traditions in Mexico,” said Hispanic- American Jesus Valencia. “Everyone's a community." The community is booming. The U-S Census Bureau estimates Oklahoma's Hispanic population has grown 60 percent to an estimated 136,000. Folks within the Hispanic community think that number is even higher. Juanita Camarillo has been making regular Tulsa visits for decades. She says when she looks back 40 years ago, she thinks Tulsa’s Hispanic community has grown larger than what is estimated, almost 500 per cent higher.

"Our estimates in Tulsa are that we might have a Hispanic population of somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000 people, said Tulsa Hispanic Chamber spokesman Robert Tobias. "You look around and see who's building the roads, who's building the homes, who's building the buildings -- you have a lot of Hispanics out there working."

Mexican immigrants usually come first to California or Texas in search of opportunity. From there, they say Tulsa's reputation draws them here. " In Tulsa, they're finding better opportunities of employment, higher wages, as well as opportunities of educating for their children,” Valencia explained. He counts himself as one of the lucky ones. Valencia's parents came here more than 30 years ago.

The recent Hispanic population boom is allowing Leticia Valencia to live a life-long dream of running her own Mexican crafts and imports business. "Oh I’m really happy,” she said. “I talked to my husband and he said, ‘it's time, it's time.’ Now, my dream is coming true here." It's a dream that's coming true for a growing number of new Oklahomans.

If you want to learn more about the Hispanic culture, attend the Hispanic-American festival this weekend. It starts Friday at 12 noon, at the Plaza Santa Cecilia at 21st and Garnett in Tulsa. Mexican musicians will be performing throughout the weekend. Plus, you and your family can sample authentic Mexican food, arts and crafts.