Hispanics Reviving Faded Towns on the Plains
Steve Hebert, New York Times, 14 November 2011
ULYSSES, Kan. - Change can be unsettling in a small town. But not long ago in this quiet farming community, with its familiar skyline of grain elevators and church steeples, the owner of a new restaurant decided to acknowledge the community's diversity by adding some less traditional items to her menu. Cheeseburgers. French fries. Chicken-fried steak.
"American food," the restaurant owner, Luz Gonzalez, calls it. And she signaled her move by giving her Mexican restaurant a distinctly American name: "The Down-Town Restaurant."
In the case of Ulysses, the town featured in the article, half of its 6,160 person population is Hispanic.
The big change in the area is that they are pushing out of the larger towns, and expanding into the smaller communities. This is not too surprising. Many of the Hispanic immegrants come from small towns themselves and are more comfortable in that environment. North Carolina, which is a State full of small towns with relatively few cities, has experienced exactly the same phenomina. I suspect the big difference is that North Carolina started with so much larger of an overall population that it the cultural shift is not as large.
The U.S. population would be aging and dwindling if it were not for immigration. Since the immigrants are younger, it is natural that they are going to slowly replace the earlier population groups. After all, how many native Dutch (German) speakers are there in the Bronx?
There is of course hostility in some quarters, but as time goes on people do tend to get used to each other. As the Mayor of Ulysses noted:
"At first every community, including Ulysses, was very unwelcoming, but a lot of that was because we wanted to hold on so tight to what we were," he said. "In the last five years, we've really seen that they're here, they're staying, they're part of the community. We've kind of gotten used to each other."