Goshen News, Goshen, IN

March 2, 2014

EDITORIAL: Local Latinos ready to serve

Goshen News

---- — To the best of its ability The Goshen News tells the story of its community. That was the case this past Thursday with the publication of “Who We Are,” a special section that included articles ranging from essays about what makes small towns such great places to the renovation effort at The Goshen Theater to the future of transportation throughout Elkhart County. Subsequent “Who We Are” articles have also run in the regular paper the past few days.

As with the Goshen area, The News’ own story has been one of change. The layout and overall look of the printed Goshen News isn’t what it was 50 years ago. Neither, in many ways, is the focus of its coverage. And 50 years ago, The News probably wouldn’t have run a front-page article quoting people with the last names Perez, Garcia and Prieto. Different times, different newspaper.

“A Place at the Table” was the headline to the front-page feature in Thursday’s Goshen News, part of the Who We Are series of articles. Staffer Daniel Riordan interviewed several Goshen Latinos. Through their words, he helped tell the story of where Goshen has been and where it’s headed.

IN THE WORDS OF Gilberto Perez Jr. of Bienvenido Community Solutions, Latinos are poised to take their local involvement to the next level.

“As a Latino population, we are to the point where we are no longer here to be served,” said Perez Jr., also an associate professor at Goshen College. “We’re here to serve. We’re here to lead.”

That leadership, we expect, will be a vital part of Goshen in the years to come.

According to the 2010 Census, more than 28 percent of Goshen’s population is labeled as Hispanic. Mark that information as another example of how modern Goshen differs from the Maple City of decades past.

The Hispanic influx didn’t happen overnight, and Goshen’s changing demographic wasn’t an easy shift. Tensions, and challenges, still persist. Some Anglo misgiving is just aversion to anything new — a longing for a fabled past, perhaps — or simple bigotry. Other concerns, though, are fair game. The issue of unlicensed Hispanic drivers — a matter of public safety, in our view — comes to mind.

BLENDING DIFFERENT POPULATIONS isn’t a hurdle-free process. That said, native U.S. residents would do well to remember that their forebears didn’t spring from this soil. Our national and local history is one of human influx, of people wanting a different life somewhere new. And our cultural landscape is the richer for that desire.

Latinos have put down roots in Goshen. They’ve started businesses. Their children attend our schools. They have hopes for the future. Sound familiar? Yes, it does. There are many great stories that seep from Goshen and nearby towns on a daily basis. Make no mistake: our Latino population and its leaders who have emerged and are emerging offer an emerging voice to those stories and a path to who we will be moving forward.