A Cambio de Colores in the Midwest

Cambio.  What is cambio?  Well, it’s a change.  Colores.  Well, that means colors.  Why are we talking about a change of colors?  Because our Midwestern communities are changing in many respects and  we are witnesses to demographic shifts.

  • Nebraska has some of the country’s fastest growing communities of color, and our Hispanic/Latino population has nearly doubled since the 2000 U.S. Census.
  • Currently, almost 10% of Nebraska’s population is of Hispanic/Latino descent (U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 population estimate), and it is predicted that the number of Hispanic/Latinos in the state will more than triple by the year 2050 due to not just to migration/immigration, but also natural change.
  • According to the Pew Hispanic Trust, approximately 2.4% of Nebraska’s population is unauthorized.

This week, I’m at the Cambio de Colores Conference, which serves as a unique venue to share, learn, discuss, and identify critical areas where the development of information and promising practices will facilitate the successful transition of newcomers into communities large and small.  I believe that being able to integrate newcomers into the fabric of our communities is going to be imperative for the growth and prosperity of the state.  A hostile reception to newcomers and immigrants  will not move communities forward.  In fact, hostile receiving communities:

  • Contribute to the reduction in public safety by increasing fear of police making individuals less likely to contact law enforcement (Ford Foundation, Insecure Communities, 2013)
  • Decrease physical and mental health status by increasing stress levels and feelings of isolation
  • Perpetuate cycles of inequality

According to the Ford Foundation, “A growing number of aggressive local measures attempting to restrict every aspect of life, including housing, education and employment, push immigrants into a marginalized existence.”  Educating receiving communities on the economic benefits of immigration and the reality of globalization may help in dispelling the myths and stereotypes related with immigration.  We need to work together to build strong, vibrant healthy communities for all.

Did you know that there are already 62 cities in the U.S. that have Latino majority populations “Pueblos” as J.S. Onesimo Sandoval labels them, and there are 397 burgeoning pueblos within the next 5-15 years.

What are the characteristics of successful pueblos?  What are these communities doing right that other communities can learn from in terms of integrating newcomers?   How can we work across differences in color, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, sexual orientation, and other divides to create communities of promise for all?



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