Wednesday November 17, 1999
MEXICAN IMMIGRANTS CHANGE THE FACE OF DENVER
Denver, Nov 16, 1999 (EFE) - The migration of thousands of Hispanics to the Denver area in the last five years has begun to have an impact on the economic and social structure of the city, according to a study published by the Piton Foundation Tuesday.
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The two-year study, conducted in the 79 neighborhoods that make up Denver, found that thousands of middle class Mexicans have made their homes here since the 1994 devaluation of the peso, attracted by the area's economic boom.
Their arrival has changed the demographic composition of the city, with particular impact on education and housing services.
"We believe this is good news," Piton Foundation researcher and study author Terri Bailey told EFE, "We wanted to know if the economic boom has reached everybody. In principle, we can say it did."
She added that economic growth in Denver has translated into more social aid programs and child care centers, a drop in the crime rate and a renovation of Hispanic and African-American neighborhoods.
But the study also depicted another reality of Denver. Its five poorest neighborhoods are populated mostly by Hispanics that only speak Spanish, particularly in the northern part of the city.
In Denver, one quarter of the 500,000 inhabitants are Hispanic in origin and almost half of them live in poor neighborhoods.
In these neighborhoods, 80 percent of the children receive food coupons, the crime rate is 37 percent, classrooms are overcrowded and the price of homes is exorbitant and continues to rise.
"We should be prepared for this challenge, but we are not yet fully ready," said John Mancha, deputy director of the Cole Beacons Community Center which, with Piton Foundation funds, offers Hispanics employment and education services in one of Denver's northeastern neighborhoods.
"Only three years ago, half of the students in the area were white. Now, 70 percent are Hispanic and if schools are not prepared for them, churches and community centers become responsible for helping the community," he said.
In Denver, almost half of the 70,000 students in public schools are of Hispanic origin, of whom 13,000 only speak Spanish.
Meanwhile, many Hispanic immigrants have moved to the suburbs of Denver, due to the rising price of housing which, in many cases, is out of their reach.
In the past ten years, the price of a home in Denver has doubled to some 200,000 dollars, while the average monthly rent for an apartment soared from 450 dollars in 1994 to 1,000 dollars this year.
Many Hispanic families in poor neighborhoods have incomes ranging from 18,000 to 24,000 dollars, so they can hardly afford living in the city of Denver.
Denver Mayor Wellington Webb said his administration was planning to offer incentives, such as tax credits, to enable the residents of the poorest neighborhoods to find adequate housing.
© Agencia EFE S.A.