South Americans gaining on Cubans when it comes to Florida presence

DORAL — Colombians, Venezuelans and Peruvians more than doubled their numbers in Florida over the last decade, according to new 2010 census data.

Cubans remain the largest group of Hispanics, followed by Puerto Ricans but South Americans as a group now outnumber Mexicans. Cubans still have the most political influence, but they had the slowest growth over the last decade.

The data released Thursday shows the Colombian community jumped from about 136,000 in 2000 to more than 300,000. Meanwhile, Venezuelans rose from 40,000 to more than 100,000, with roughly 85 percent of all Venezuelans in the United States living Florida. Peruvians increased to more than 100,000.

Their influence throughout South Florida and in the Tampa and Orlando areas is hard to miss. The wealthy Broward County neighborhood of Weston has acquired the nickname of "Westonzuela," a nod to the large number of immigrants from Caracas who make the city their home. In the western Miami-Dade suburb of Doral, Peruvian fish restaurants and cafes selling arepas — the traditional stuffed tortilla treat particularly popular in Venezuela and Colombia — now dot strip malls once lined only with Cuban cafes. Aspiring politicians attend the Colombian festival in Miami.

Meanwhile, in central Florida, the population remains small, but nearly every South American group now has its own chamber of commerce, and Colombians have become a recognizable presence particularly in the Orlando area.

Among Central Americans, the Guatemalan community saw the largest growth with reaching roughly 84,000, a nearly 200 percent increase.

The numbers in Florida follow the national growth trends among all Hispanics, said Mark Lopez of the nonprofit Pew Hispanic Center.

South Americans gaining on Cubans when it comes to Florida presence 08/19/11 [Last modified: Friday, August 19, 2011 11:26pm]

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