Waltham's Latino population

There's a story in the News Tribune this morning about Spanish-speaking residents going to Spanish-speaking clerks in Waltham City Hall. But a more interesting fact was this:

More than 5,000 residents (5,031) identified themselves as Latino in the 2000 census -- 8.5 percent of the local population.

I suspect the number is much higher than that, owing to the fact that many Hispanic residents live in Waltham temporarily, or only part of the year; can't understand census forms; or are afraid to answer them because of their illegal resident status.

It's good that City Hall provides Spanish-speaking services, but it has to be noted that there is still disconnect between Hispanic residents -- not to mention Indians and other immigrants -- and our elected representatives.

This segment of our population are not courted during local elections, and have no obvious representation among Waltham's elected officials. I get all of the campaign flyers and advertisements before local elections, but never do I see candidates highlighting their language skills, or even including a message in Spanish below the English. Elected officials should do more to learn about the issues that they are concerned about. After all, they pay property taxes either directly or through landlords, send their kids to local schools, and use other local services.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

...but a lot of these residents, as you pointed out, may be illegal. Waltham has gone through a few immigrant population changes over the past 30-40 years; Korean, Hispanic, etc. Maybe the local politics can't keep up? In any case, while the Hispanic residents may make up 8.5% of the population, many of them can likely speak some English, and should certainly be able to read some of it as well. I think the issue you bring up is more a symptom of existing local politicians and businessmen keeping themselves at the top of the food chain in Waltham than a deliberate attempt to ignore the Hispanic population. In that case, I would say to the Hispanic population (the legal residents only): do what the Irish and Italians did - form a strong local network, support each other, and vote a representative into office in Waltham. That's the only way anything will change.

10:59 AM  

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