From 2010 to 2020, Oregon’s Latino population grew by about 31%, with counties in the eastern part of the state recording the largest increase.
OREGON, USA – Over the past 10 years, Oregon’s Latino population has grown rapidly. Latinos have settled everywhere, in big cities and small rural towns.
According to figures released in the 2020 census, Oregon’s Latin American population grew by about 31%, while the overall population grew by about 11%. The data shows that the same has happened in almost every other state; according to NBC News the growth of the Latino population has exceeded the growth of the state’s overall population.
The 2020 census shows that there are almost 140,000 more Latinos in Oregon than in 2010. Multnomah, Marion and Washington counties, three of the most densely populated counties in the state, have the most large Latin American populations. But rural counties east of the mountains such as Morrow and Malheur counties have seen their Latin American populations grow the most.
âThese counties all have a lot of agricultural processing, distribution and warehousing factories because they are located along Interstate 84, a busy corridor,â said Charles Rynerson, who works at the Population Research Center of the ‘Portland State University (PSU). “So they’ve added a lot of jobs in the last two decades since 1990.”
Besides jobs and educational opportunities, family or friendships in Oregon can also make it an easier destination for many Latinos to settle down.
âIt’s a connection if you have someone,â said Marco Benavides, 61, who has lived in Oregon for almost 40 years. âFor me, it was a connection that I knew Oregon, and I knew the environment and the people. And then I told my family it was a good place. And then, since we got to Oregon, other family members have come later as well.
Benavides immigrated to the United States from Santiago, Chile. He studied agriculture there and at 20 he got a one-year scholarship to study agriculture in Hood River for his thesis. A few years later, his family was about to leave Chile.
âThe political, socio-economic situation was really bad. And so I told them, well, I’m from Oregon and this is a good place, âhe said.
Benavides is one of 588,757 Latinos who now live in Oregon. The vast majority are of Mexican descent, but the state is also welcoming more Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Guatemalans and South Americans, according to PSU’s Rynerson.
Here are the stories of what brought Latinos to the Pacific Northwest.
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Find a home in Marion County
Marco Benavides and his wife Jacqueline have been married for 35 years. They moved to Marion County decades ago after meeting in Madras at a religious event. They have two boys who grew up in Oregon, who went to college here, who graduated, and who now have families of their own.
Jacqueline and Marco both immigrated to the United States on the same day in 1982.
âWe are celebrating the anniversaries of our arrival in the United States on the same day we just passed through different ports,â said Jacqueline. âHe went through Florida and I went through Los Angeles. “
When Jacqueline was 17, her parents sent her to live with her aunt in Oregon after their home country of El Salvador became too dangerous.
âI came here, I went to high school and at the time there was no ESL program,â she said. âThere was nothing. So I was sent to regular classrooms to learn English.
In three months, she was already speaking English. Jacqueline now works in the communications department of Salem-Keizer Public Schools where she worked for 22 years.
The couple stayed close to their roots, taking their children to visit their homeland, speaking Spanish with them and celebrating traditions like making empanadas together for Chile’s Independence Day on September 18. But through it all, they see the United States as their home.
âOur life is here. I love football and even when the national teams play against each other, I go for the United States, âsaid Marco. âThis is my country. This is what I believe, this is the place where I live and the place that I support.
A first-generation American, Maria Hinojos Pressey’s parents emigrated from the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, in the 1980s to pursue the American dream, prosperity and stability. When she got pregnant four years ago, Hinojos Pressey moved from New Mexico to Oregon, pursuing a similar life for her baby.
âThis desire to be safer, better, more prosperous, and my husband is from Eugene, that’s where he was born,â she said.
They were drawn to Oregon’s high-level education system and the lower crime rate than New Mexico.
“For me, the desire to make the dreams of my parents come true who always wanted a better life for our families,” she said. âI now have a four year old daughter. This is what really encouraged me to get involved is that I saw the world change quickly in a way that I don’t think I was really excited about and I also wanted to do better with it. my child.
Hinojos Pressey lives in Salem and is the COO of PCUN, a Woodburn-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower farm workers and working Latin American families. She is also a member of the Salem-Keizer School Board.
A young Latino population
Oregon’s Latino population is very young, according to census data. While Oregon has an overall Latin American population of 14%, around 23% of children under the age of 18 are Latinos. This will continue to grow, according to Rynerson.
âThe population will just increase because of the age structure with very few seniors and many young adults there,â he said. “Year after year, we expect more births than deaths among people who identify as Latino.”
The younger population can cause a shift in politics as more people become eligible to vote by the age of 18.
Sharioth Montoya Aguado, 22, moved from Colombia to Oregon five years ago. Her mother moved first, then her brother, then she followed.
“[Colombia] was not a good place, so my mom wanted to take her kids here and new opportunities, âshe said.
Montoya Aguado barely knew English when she arrived here, but pushed herself to learn. She graduated from North Salem High School in 2019. She now attends Chemeketa Community College in Salem. She volunteers and tries to give back to the community.
It was her partner who brought 22-year-old Carolina Chiari to Portland five months ago. Born in Panama, her family moved to Florida for her father’s job when she was little.
âWe have really kept the culture and traditions present in our house,â she said. “But because I grew up here, I also felt connected to this country.”
Chiari is a first generation college graduate who now works for Latino Network, a Latino-led nonprofit organization that works with youth and families by providing transformative programs and services. It serves 10,000 community members each year.
âI think for anyone who wants to give back to their community, this is a great place after college to kind of get the job you want to do,â she said of Oregon. .
Martina Bialek also works at Latino Network and has been in Oregon for about four years. She was born and raised in Argentina and Mexico, met her husband abroad and followed him to Oregon to be closer to family and the woods.
âWhere I’m from, there aren’t really a lot of opportunities to hike or camp just because it’s dangerous,â she said.
At first it was difficult for him to find a sense of community here.
âWhen I first came here I thought it was a very seamless place. People look the same, people talk the same, people dress the same, “she added.
Through her work with Latino Network, she was able to connect with other Latinos in the area and her hometown of Forest Grove in Washington County.
“When I look at the members of the Latin American community as we thrive, we are influential, we are here to make a positive impact.”