Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

February 27, 2014

As Latinos make a home in Elkhart County, a new generation of leaders are ripe to emerge

As Latinos make a home in Elkhart County, a new generation of leaders are ripe to emerge

GOSHEN

Names like Diaz, Aguilar and Contreras are common in the captions of school pictures, work schedules at businesses and volunteer lists at churches in Goshen. Going forward, as the Latino population in Goshen continues to nurture and solidify its roots, those names are more often likely to appear on ballots, badges and business signs.

With more than 28 percent of Goshen’s population labeled as Hispanic in the 2010 Census, what does the future look like for this growing community?

The Organizer

“As a Latino population we are to the point where we are no longer here to be served. We’re here to serve, we’re here to lead.”

That’s the message Gilberto Perez has when he talks about the future of the Latino community in Goshen. Whether through his organization, Bienvenido Community Solutions, which helps those new to the U.S. integrate into the community, as an associate professor of social work at Goshen College or in his role on Goshen’s Plan Commission, Gilberto Perez has made his mark.

Now he and many others are confident a new generation of Latinos in Goshen will make theirs.

Perez grew up in south Texas as part of a third-generation Latino-American family. His family lived in Goshen for a year in the mid-80s. Then the Latino population was small. The rise of the Latino population in Goshen brought Perez back to work with the Latino community on mental health issues. He’s seen the way things have changed with the Latino community.

“You saw a lack of trust in the late ‘90s and early 2000s.” Perez explained. “That’s also when you saw the largest number of people come here. From 2000 to 2010 you saw stabilization. Now in 2014, these are people that will be here for a while. Regardless if there is immigration reform or not. I think going forward what you are beginning to see is a shift in more Latinos involved in things around the community.”

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