March 12, 2005

What is Hispanization of America?

Hispanization is the combined forces between Corporate America reaching out to the Hispanic consumer and the Hispanic consumer reaching out to buy 'American Brands". Recognizing and incorporating Hispanic values into your products and services will create a bridge with opportunities. Hispanization

Latinos at 04:06 PM

February 25, 2005

The New Latino Community

'New urbanism' embraces Latinos USA TODAY - February 16, 2005

The New Latino Community - Bridal shops and corner grocery stores. Families strolling downtown. Workers walking to lunch. Store signs in Spanish next to the ubiquitous Starbucks shops. Street vendors. Professionals living in artists' lofts a block from Main Street.

Amid a suburban county's gated communities, three-car garages and megamalls, Santa Ana is a fledgling hub of ''new urbanism,'' an increasingly popular antidote to sprawl that promotes dense, walkable neighborhoods where people live, work and play.

But it's new urbanism with a twist: Latino new urbanism.

Advocates of this budding movement suggest that places where Hispanics are fast becoming the majority could help rein in sprawl by capitalizing on Latino cultural preferences for compact neighborhoods, large public places and a sense of community.

''I grew up in Mexico. We had a traditional urban square and plaza where everything is happening,'' says Mario Chavez-Marquez, 31, who lives in one of downtown Santa Ana's new loft apartments. ''To me, it made sense to move back to the center, closer to my job. Now I can walk to a supermarket.''

Builders and planners have largely ignored the cultural identity of this new wave of home buyers, says planner Michael Mendez, who coined the term ''Latino new urbanism.''

As a result, many Hispanics moving up the economic ladder choose typical suburbs far from work, mass transit and shopping because it's usually the only path to home ownership, Mendez says. ''They have to assimilate into what's available.''

Hispanics are the largest minority in the USA and are projected to become the majority in California by 2040. How and where they live will shape neighborhoods, cities and suburbs for generations.

California expects to gain 21 million people from 2000 to 2050 -- 18 million of them Hispanic. Housing the booming population without putting more stress on land and water resources and a congested highway system is a big challenge. The nation as a whole faces similar demands: The Census Bureau projects the U.S. population growing 49% to 420 million by 2050.

Latino new urbanism is taking hold in California and Texas, the nation's two most populous states and the ones with the largest numbers of Hispanics. And it's starting to garner national attention among growth-control advocates and developers eager to tap the Hispanic housing market. The National Association of Home Builders, for example, plans to publish a book on designing for the Latino market.

Almost a third of California homebuyers had Hispanic surnames in June 2004, according to DataQuick Information Systems. That's up from less than a fifth in 2002. The top surnames of buyers: Garcia, Hernandez, Lopez and Rodriguez.

Latinos are comfortable living near stores and businesses and riding buses and trains, says Katherine Perez, executive director of the Transportation and Land Use Collaborative of Southern California.

''There is a natural group of folks ready to embrace these ideas,'' she says. ''(But) what happens to the Latino that has 'assimilated' and moves in to the single-family, detached home in the suburbs with the SUV in the driveway? What does that mean in air quality, land consumption and pure economics?''

Latinos already are reshaping old urban neighborhoods. In East Los Angeles, Mexican-Americans live in small wooden houses that were built more than 50 years ago by Anglos. They've added paint and stucco, put in large front porches, fountains and wrought iron, and turned neighborhood parks into the main social place outside the home.

In most communities, zoning and building codes prevent such ethnic touches. Now developers and civic leaders are trying to create these neighborhoods from scratch:

* San Diego approved five ''Pilot Villages'' last year. One of them, Mi Pueblo in San Ysidro near the Mexican border, is pure Latino new urbanism. Facades of new homes are vibrant red, blue, yellow and green. Mi Pueblo eventually will have 1,143 residential units, about a quarter of them moderately priced. Three-bedroom, two-bath homes built so far are selling for $270,000, about half the local median price.

* San Fernando, a small Los Angeles suburb that is 90% Hispanic, is working to attract housing, retail and services so residents don't have to go to Pasadena or Glendale for shopping and entertainment.

There are plans for a mall and apartments, homes and condos downtown. About 15% of new housing will sell below the city's single-family home median price of $367,000 ($295,000 for condos).

Latino new urbanism has gotten the attention of Henry Cisneros, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development and now the chairman of American CityVista in San Antonio. The company develops homes in city neighborhoods that haven't seen new housing in decades. Moderately priced developments in Austin and San Antonio are built near established Latino communities.

Cisneros advocates designs that fit the needs of Hispanic families -- from big kitchens with gas stoves for grilling tortillas to courtyards for social gatherings, multiple bedrooms for large and extended families, and driveways that accommodate numerous cars.

So far, new urbanism has chiefly targeted white and higher-income populations in suburbs, he says.

''I think Latinos can be the ideal audience for a new urbanist conversation,'' Cisneros says.

Developments tailored to such lifestyles account for only 5%-10% of new construction, says Pasadena architect Stefanos Polyzoides, co-founder of the Congress for New Urbanism, a non-profit group.

Differences in what Hispanics, blacks, whites or Asians want are subtle, says Gopal Ahluwalia, who tracks buyers' preferences for the home builders group. ''I have my doubts about this Latino new urbanism thing,'' he says. ''It's more socioeconomics and demographics that drive this marketplace than ethnicity and race.''

Santa Ana, whose population of 342,510 is about 80% Hispanic, embraced Latino new urbanism before there was even a name for it.

In the early 1990s, Santa Ana's downtown was dying. People came because they either worked in the county government center or had to serve on a jury.

Then Hispanic immigrants arrived in large numbers. But many left as soon as they could afford to, City Councilman Mike Garcia says. Now the city is trying to keep them. It refurbished historic facades, built brick sidewalks with benches and replaced a methadone clinic and bus depot with artists' lofts.

Mario Chavez-Marquez and his wife, Karyn Mendoza, 29, were lured by the changes. He works as a planner for the city of Irvine, a 10-minute drive from Santa Ana. Mendoza, who grew up in a mostly white suburb of Chicago, walks two blocks to her job as a social worker for a non-profit organization. They also exhibit works by Latino artists in their diseo ART Gallery, on the street level of the loft they own.

''Who's to say Latino new urbanism should be just for Latinos?'' says Dowell Myers, a demographer at the University of Southern California. ''Maybe it's a general model for the whole region. ''

To see more of, or to subscribe, go to

© Copyright 2004 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

Latinos at 11:13 AM