Partners, Volume 14, Number 1, 2004


We live in a world of constant change. Changes in our personal lives typically result from the decisions we make concerning education, employment, family and housing. All of these choices are easier when we set goals and follow plans. However, even the best laid plans can go awry when a medical emergency, family break-up or job layoff arises. Such troubles often force people to make difficult adjustments to survive.

Like individuals, communities also change over time. Some of these transitions are carefully orchestrated while others are unplanned. Although natural disasters, acts of terrorism or closures of sizeable factories tend to have an immediate impact in a community, shifts generally occur more gradually and are rarely the result of a single action.

All sizes and types of communities are affected by change. Government actions, employment availability, economic conditions, housing stock, ease of transportation, quality of schools, family values and nearby amenities are some of the factors that influence the speed and degree of transitions in communities.

Many communities in the Sixth Federal Reserve District have changed dramatically over the last half century. South Florida, for example, has seen a tremendous inflow of refugees and immigrants since the late 1950s. Initially most immigration came from Cuba with the fall of Fulgencio Batista’s regime, but recent decades have seen the formation of a large Haitian community. Other immigrant groups from Central and South America have settled in South Florida as well.

Like most communities adjusting to waves of immigration, Miami has had to respond to the effects of unemployment and poverty coupled with insufficient affordable housing—factors that strain local economic, social and political conditions. But the transformation of Miami’s population to majority-Hispanic has also made the city culturally and economically rich. In fact, South Florida Hispanics now have the highest per capita buying power of all Hispanics in the U.S.

Increased immigration has affected numerous other areas of the South in recent years as well. According to census data Hispanic populations have grown threefold or more in several of our communities during the 1990s, and many experts believe that these figures are under-representative. While the percentage of Latinos in relation to the population as a whole remains relatively low in the South, it’s likely to grow significantly in the coming years.

The inflow of immigrants to the South is a new phenomenon in many of our markets, and it has been the cause of extensive debate locally and regionally. In addition to dealing with the impact on employment, housing, transportation and education, communities are also faced with identification requirements, language barriers, and the need to provide access to health and human services and financial services.

While there are no easy answers, one thing is clear—our communities’ landscapes will continue to change. And how we deal with change will become increasingly important.

Juan C. Sanchez
Community Affairs Officer

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