La Oferta

July 3, 2022

HISPANICS: A FORCE IN CALIFORNIA TO MEET THE CHALLENGE OF THE 21ST CENTURY

August 22, 1990

By Yolanda Reynolds

La Oferta Newspaper.

Hispanics in Clara County number an estimated 310,000. The City of San Jose has both the largest concentration of and the highest percentage of Hispanics (est. to be 30%) of any city in the County. There are 14 cities in Santa Clara County whose total population is estimated to be 1.6 million.

Families in San Jose generally enjoy a higher per capita income than their counterparts in other communities throughout the nation. That does not mean that families living in this County are able to save money; the cost of living in Santa Clara County is one of the highest in the nation due, in large part, to high housing costs.

Since the end of World War II the Hispanic population of the County has grown steadily. The last ten years has been one of greatly accelerated growth, not only in population, but in community involvement as well.

Several years ago a group of community based organizations and long time Hispanic community leaders gathered together for a “Latino Issues Forum of Santa Clara County.” At this meeting a wide range of issues were studied in depth. These topics included: Hispanic political empowerment; educational achievement of youth and achievement within the community; employment; juvenile justice and substance abuse.

The purpose of the Forum was to draw attention to these issues and to develop strategies to the “growing marginalization of Latinos in the social, political and economic life in Silicon Valley” (Santa Clara Valley).

Early this year the Hispanic community stunned local policy makers and others in the community when swift and vocal protest erupted over the planned relocation of the one remaining Spanish language theater in downtown San Jose. Soon afterward the community reacted quickly for a second time upon becoming aware that the city planned to place a statue in the center of town depicting an early day real estate promoter raising the American flag in the then Mexican Pueblo de San Jose.

For most Hispanics the reaction within the community to the theater and statue issue was not unexpected. There had already been a lawsuit filed and won against the City because of the manner in which a large Hispanic neighborhood was demolished because it lay in the path of Redevelopment.

Social Service providers in the County have repeatedly made known to policy makers and decision makers the need for more attention to the educational, recreational and employment needs of Hispanic youth and their families. A recent University of California report points out that more Latinos in California drop out of school than graduate from it. The figures are not quite as grim as might appear since many dropouts later return to acquire some sort of education or job training.

In 1980, 51 percent of the Latinos had high school educations and 25 percent had college educations. Even though there have been improvements in the number of Latinos who complete high school and attend college, the total number of Latino families living in poverty in Santa Clara County has increased over the last 15 years in spite of a relatively healthy economy.

A recent Santa Clara County United Way publication reports that 11.7 percent of Hispanic households had incomes at or below the poverty level. This, unfortunately, in one of the most afluent counties in California itself a world economic power (six in the world if it were an independent nation).

According to the “Report of the University of California SCR43 Task Force, “the California economy shows signs of continued strength. The report states that without sufficient attention to human capital needs, social investments, and infrastructure; future growth and development could be limited.

The Task Force suggests four approaches towards the development of a sufficiently large, skilled and educated workforce. One, of course, is a “concerted” effort to improve education and job training. Another is the promotion of small businesses and basic manufacturing industries to help provide entry level employment. Third is the enforcement of fair wage and labor practices an, finally, a review of legislative policies to determine their impact of de facto discriminatory practices and to propose methods for ending them. Policies involving education, transportation, housing, city general plans, and Redevelopment project plans often serve to limit economic opportunity for Latinos.

It was a lack of sensitivity and awareness of the impacts of recent policy decisions in San Jose that brought the Hispanic community to rise up in protest.

Hank Rosendin, a retired City of San Jose Recreation Superintendent, says that municipalities, including San Jose. “have the obligation to provide a structure within which all members of a diverse community can pursue their objectives with equality – in an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding, thereby creating and enhancing the sense of community within the city.”

Not only the Hispanic community, but the community at large is demanding that such an atmosphere of community become a reality.

The SCR43 report states that Latinos in San Jose are of sufficient numbers, relative to the general population, to be a significant sociopolitical force for influencing policy leaders and decision makers. Indeed, the community has begun to clearly demonstrate the ability and will continue to do so.

An aroused community has made the City move more cautiously with its Redevelopment projects, following the uproar caused by a number of its projects and plans.

In an event unprecedent in the history of San Jose since its earl Pueblo days, two Hispanic candidates have the very real potential of being elected to the San Jose City Council. They are both locked in close runoff elections this November. Should they be successful in their bid for office there would be three Hispanic Councilpersons on the City Council, roughly bringing Hispanic representation to parity on the City Council of the nation’s 12th largest city.

Yet to be addressed in a meaningful and comprehensive manner is community economic development.

Estimates place at 5 to 7 percentage of Hispanic owned business enterprises. Most of the business are involved in direct professional services (lawyers, accountants, etc.), the service sector (janitorial, auto maintenance, appliance repair etc.), and the food service industry (restaurants).

According to Ricardo Garcia, Executive Director of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, “economic and political empowerment are the bottom line. It’s only been recently that the minority and dis-empowered have begun to take a look at community economic development, especially as it affects its local community. The community also has a clearer understanding of the dynamics between economic development and political empowerment.”

Recently a major step towards achieving meaningful economic development was made when a California American GI Forum obtained agreements from banking institutions in California promising that they will provide billions of dollars for economic opportunities within the Hispanic community.

The Security Pacific Bank has agreed to a $24 billion commitment to inner cities for low income residential and economic development. Statewide, other banks have or are signing similar agreements with the GI Forum. The Forum has arranged for similar arrangements of benefit to the Hispanic community with some of the major California utility companies.

Major Bay Area universities are also realizing the market potential for producing professionally trained Hispanic economic and business leaders and are aggressively seeking to develop the appropriate academic programs for their training. The Universities have not only expressed an interest in producing Hispanic/minority professionals but they have also recognized the value and need for their institutions to become involved in the complex but rewarding enterprise of community economic development.

How successfully the state and, in particular, the Hispanic community reacts to these challenges and opportunities will determine California’s future economic status. The University report points out that the state is at a crossroads. Minorities, of whom the largest group (30%) will be Hispanic, will constitute over 50% of the total population in California by the year 2030.

For more information on this subject read “The Challenge: Latinos in a Changing California” a report produced this year by the University of California SCR43 Task Force.

This task force was formed by the California Legislature in the interest of preparing California to “meet the 21st century.”