Many Hispanics making homes, careers in area
By J. Matt Miller
Hispanics have become the largest minority group in the United States -- and many
have found Speedway an attractive home.
Take Edwin Cruz, for example. Cruz, a lifeguard at the International Village
apartments, chose to live in Speedway because he believes it is calmer than other
urban areas. The police understand Hispanic culture, he said, and teachers help
children who speak Spanish better than English.
"They pay a lot of attention to your kids," he said. "They get an A-plus from
Cruz is part of a growing Hispanic presence in Speedway. In the past 20
years, Speedway's Latino population has quadrupled -- from 83, or 0.7 percent of
the town's residents, in 1980, to more than 330, or 2.6 percent, in 2000.
That growth outpaces the United States as a whole. Latinos made up 6.4
percent of the population in 1980 and 12.5 percent in 2000.
In that time, Hispanic-focused businesses have popped up in Speedway,
including several restaurants, a furniture store, auto shops and a business center.
Economic conditions are a big reason for the increased Hispanic presence.
Mexicans are seeking refuge in the United States because of their country's poor
economy, said Gloria King, executive director of The Hispanic Center in
"Now it's just like an influx of folks coming over," she said. "(Mexico's
situation is) that serious. We probably don't realize it."
But Hispanics often come to live in cities and towns where others don't
understand their culture or their speech. Some face problems as simple as finding a
ride to work.
"Here, the car is very important to move," said Leticia Rodriguez, a Speedway
resident and cashier at El Paso Tienda Mexicana, a Hispanic grocery store.
Some businesses are finding ways to serve customers who don't speak
English. Dentist Michael Tillery's office employs two dental assistants who speak
Martin Salazar works at the office while he earns a dental license. About
three or four Spanish-speaking customers will visit every week.
"They know there are people that speak Spanish here," Salazar said.
The gaps between Hispanics and other residents can be bridged, said King
and Mary Jane Gonzales, head of the Indiana State Hispanic Chamber of
Commerce. They suggested education in Hispanic culture and partnerships with
neighborhood associations and government.
"Hispanics need to be viewed as contributors instead of takers," Gonzales said.
"They're really not taking anything."