Thursday, December 1 2022

Families lined the street and the smell of tacos filled the air as crowds gathered in Moline this week to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.

Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 to October 15. It became law under President Reagan in 1988. September 15 was chosen as the start date because it is the Independence Day of five Central American countries.

As of the last census, the American Hispanic population stands at 62.1 million. It is expected to be 133 million by 2050. Today in the United States there are over four million Hispanic-owned businesses with a GDP of over $660 billion.

The data also shows that the Hispanic population in the quad cities of Iowa and Illinois is around 11%. According to chamber director Janessa Calderon, these numbers will only increase in the coming years as the Hispanic population continues to climb.

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In the Quad-Cities, supporting the Hispanic community is vital for growth, she said.

“Bringing culture brings different diversity,” she said. “In the future, when we hug each other and then go to their little family shops and support them, they will be successful.”

Founded in 2008, the Hispanic Chamber now has approximately 300 members. With the Latin American population seeing a slight increase thanks to the 2020 census, she has high hopes that more members will join soon.

“It’s important to recognize that Latin American businesses are seen as a different culture, but they impact the culture in the Quad-Cities region,” Calderon said.

Dwight Ford, executive director of Project Now, said his organization recently joined the Hispanic Chamber. In an effort to help support the community, Project Now has partnered with Head Start and the Moline Public Library to offer a literacy program for immigrant families.

Ford said helping individuals live independent lives is the essence of having a community. Living apart is a thing of the past, and to move forward the community must be responsible and accessible to each other, he said.

“The truth is, it’s not just about us,” he said. “It’s about seeing beyond our personal interests and toward a collective interest. The city of Moline stands strong today…thanks to our ability to see beyond ourselves.”

Head Start director Andrea Flannery said on average, immigrant families had less than 10 books in their household, compared to English-speaking families who had about 50 on average. Literacy is critical to the success of these families and the children who will grow up in the community, she said.

Reading a proclamation on behalf of the city of Moline, Mayor Sangeetha Rayapati said the Hispanic Chamber aims to support and grow diversity in the area. The city’s businesses trying their luck at entrepreneurship and growth all reflect how the country was founded, she said.

“I’m so thankful that so many people mean well for this community,” she said.

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