Jacksonville a Friendly Hub FOR LATINOS

With a total of 827,908 residents and a 7.7 percent Hispanics, Jacksonville has become one popular city among Latinos seeking a better lifestyle.

“Jacksonville offers many job opportunities for Hispanics, and it’s also an affordable city,” said María Hernández, a Colombian who came here four years ago from New Jersey seeking a milder climate, employment, and an education for her son.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census results, the percentage of Hispanics in the city of Jacksonville has increased by 40 percent since the 2000 census. Today, the city joins other metropolitan areas such as Orlando, Miami, and Tampa, cities known for its diversity, fairness between Anglos and Hispanics, scholarships, jobs and education opportunities.

As an accountant, Hernández talks about the benefits of living in this city. “Residents of Jacksonville are very kind. That’s one reason why more Hispanics come to live here,” Hernández said. “Also, because it’s a big city, it’s easier to find good jobs.”

Hernández seems to be right. However, in cities where the percentage of Hispanics is under ten percent, the challenge of cultural adaptability and language acquisition in an Anglo environment is bigger. “In Jacksonville you have to speak English,” said Hernandez. “Compared to New Jersey where almost everyone

speaks Spanish, here it’s essential to master the language.”

Also, for those coming from the north where they are used to public transportation, getting around Jacksonville can be a difficulty. “You need to have a car; an additional expense,” she added.

“Transportation makes things easier in New York,” said Constanza López, Spanish professor at UNF.

López came to Jacksonville three years ago because of a job offer. The Colombian, said that despite not knowing much about the city, she decided to take the risk and accept the offer. “When I was offered the job in Jacksonville, I had to go online to find out where it was,” said López.

For López was difficult to adjust to a city where everything moves at a slower pace compared to New York City, where she lived for 20 years. However, the professor does not regret her decision. “Jacksonville is very laid back and a better quality of life is possible,” said López. “For example, you can buy a home, which is almost impossible in New York because the properties are so expensive.”

According to Wilfredo González, director of the Small Business Administration in Jacksonville (SBA), Hispanics who come to the city have the support of the organization. “Here they are offered help when they want to open their own business,” González said, “Although we can not compare this city to the big cities, we have a substantial clientele of new entrepreneurs we’ve lent to.”

As a professor, López has met Hispanic students from different backgrounds. They have inspired her to create a project to explore and discover the various Latino cultures in Jacksonville. “It was a very rewarding job, I had the opportunity to talk to many Latinos in the city and hear their stories.”

Her work focuses on student conducted interviews that explore the different behaviors of Hispanics residing in Jacksonville and the reasons that brought them to this country.

“When I first came to the city, I thought there weren’t many Hispanics,” said López. “Through the project, I came to realize that there are many, but they’re scattered throughout the city.”

Statewide, the Hispanic population grew by 57.4 percent. Hispanics now make up 22.5 percent of all Floridians. According to Population Projections for 2050, Hispanics will constitute 30 percent of the nation’s total population. Jacksonville follows that pattern.

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