Click to Search
< home

When I mentioned to people that I was going to Idaho to work on a survey of Latino traditional arts, I was greeted with incredulity. Because I had done similar work in Oregon and in Tennessee, and because I have lived in Lincoln, Nebraska I knew better than to assume that there were no Mexican origin people living in the Northwest. So with great joy I would announce to those incredulous colleagues, "Oh yes, and it is a vibrant and growing community." But, when I arrived in Boise and spent a day of planning with Maria Carmen Gambliel, the Director state Folk Arts Program, laying out the state and looking at the terrain we were to cover in a week, I was flabbergasted. The community was indeed vibrant and growing, even more so than my preliminary Internet sources indicated. Of course once we set off on our trip, I was even more impressed by the energy and tremendous work being done by community activists and just plain folks who want to make sure that they remain culturally Mexican even when their names are changed from "Salvador" to "Jim."

I ended my stay with a reading from my novel that was one of the most moving experiences I have ever had. It was an emotional coming home in a community I had never been at, in terms of geography, but one I had been at home with all my life. At various points during our trip, I could not hold back the tears as I heard stories of pain and suffering, I also could hardly contain myself as I heard songs beloved and well known. When thirteen-year old Leticia Palacios in Aberdeen told us that her dream for her community was to have a college because she wanted to become a teacher, I flashed back to my own childhood in a small and poor community that had no access to higher education and my own impossible dreams of becoming a teacher. When a community activist in Chadwell burst into tears remembering the obstacles and difficulties her parents had faced in a hostile English speaking community, I wept too for the sacrifices and suffering my own Spanish speaking parents endured.

Throughout my visit I wanted to empaparme, to immerse myself in Latino Idaho. And perhaps I succeeded as I listened to people's stories, as I ate enchiladas and tacos at the local Mexican restaurants, as I enjoyed an empanada at Panadería la Michoacana in Burley. Searching for traces of Mexican names in museums, in the newspapers, in the phone books, I found them. We have been in Idaho for a long, long time and we will be here shaping the future of the state for generations to come.

top of the page top

I would like to thank the many people and institutions who made it possible for me to learn about Idaho's Latinos and who because of their participation are the heart of this document. In nine different settings, I met with individuals who shared with me their knowledge, their struggles and their dreams.

My deepest gratitude to the individuals that provided hospitality: Elva Cardenas, Manuel Cavazos, Gladys Esquibel, Pete M. Espinoza, Gloria Galán, Rudy Peña, Laurel Hall, Antonio and Gloria Salcido, Arnoldo Hernández; without your grassroots work we would not have the participants attend our meetings. My gratitude also to the hosts, the businesses and institutions that let us use their facilities: in Jerome, El Sombrero Restaurant; in Rupert, the Office of Federal Programs, specifically the Migrant Project's Office; in Burley, the Church of Saint Teresita, the Little Flower; in American Falls, William Thomas Middle School; in Aberdeen, the Church of the Blessed Sacrament; in Idaho Falls, Church of the Holy Rosary; in Chadwell, Albertson College of Idaho.

A special note of gratitude to the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs whose work on behalf of the Latino community has left a lasting legacy and whose commissioners continue to give selflessly por la causa as they continue to strive for a better quality of life for all Latinos in Idaho; without their support our meetings would not have occurred. A special thank you to Commissioner Gladys Esquibel who offered us her ranchito while we met in the area of Twin Falls. Also I would like to acknowledge Idaho Commission on the Arts commissioners Laurel Hall in Idaho Falls, and Pat Harder in Twin Falls, with whom we met and whose support was evident in their commitment to the project.

And finally, my gratitude to the Idaho Commission on the Arts and its Director of Folk Arts, Maria Carmen Gambliel who took me under her wing and into her home. Without her vision and deep commitment to the project, I would not have been able to visit these communities and write this report. The project owes much to the National Endowment for the Arts and the Idaho Commission on the Arts, and to the Idaho Commission for the Humanities, for without their invaluable support this work would have remained a dream.

top of the page top

Recent articles in the New York Times and Washington Post point to a growing immigrant population in Europe that is challenging the political, economic and social structures of countries like Great Britain and France. The United States, a country founded by immigrants and historically seen as a culturally pluralistic society, has become the model the old world turns to in addressing these challenges. The United States, however, is itself on a continual learning curve as it continues to find solutions to an ever-increasing pluralistic populace. Idaho, like other states, faces challenges and opportunities similar to those our country faced a hundred years ago when immigration from Europe and the Americas laid the foundation for what we became as a nation in the twentieth century. Like other states, Idaho's demographic make up has undergone a dramatic shift since the 1990 census figures. One of the areas most impacted by such population shifts is cultural expression, grounded in traditions of music, art, food, or religious belief. Throughout our history, the traditional arts in the United States have undergone radical changes and have been revitalized through the inclusion of traditional artists who have immigrated to the United States or who have moved form one area of the country to another; the traditional arts in Idaho are no exception.

Unlike some states, however, Idaho has a rich history of Latinos in the state whose artistry and cultural expressions have helped shape its identity. The presence of corridistas, singers of traditional ballads, of women whose embroidery has graced many a church altar and of course private homes, piñata makers whose ephemeral art has served the needs of festival and birthday celebrations, and many other examples point to a rich and complex interplay between the established Latino population-often referred to as Tejanos because many came from Texas and settled out of the migrant stream in the mid 50s-and the new immigrant population who call themselves Mejicanos, and are mostly of Mexican origin. The Latino population in Idaho is changing as are the traditional arts in the state.

This report concludes that there are certain critical issues in the Latino community in the state that the Idaho Commission on the Arts needs to address. If all of Idaho's population is to participate fully in the State and be true citizens of their communities, the State must pay attention to this sector of society and fulfill its civic commitment to them. Latino traditional arts are thriving, but the artists and the communities need help to insure that they flourish and remain at the center of the discussion. The Latino population in the state-both the long-settled Tejanos and the recent immigrants mostly of Mexican origin-practices a large repertoire of artistic traditions.

Through focus group meetings in nine locations in the state where data was gathered, representatives of the community, selected for their expressed interest and participation in traditional cultural expressions, answered four major questions that revealed the community's perceptions about the existence and survival of traditional arts in the state: What are the resources in your community in terms of traditional cultural expressions? What are some obstacles or problems you encounter in realizing the cultural expressions in your community? What are some solutions to these impediments or problems? And what are your dreams for your community's cultural life?

Generally, the community sees a need for increased attention by state agencies to their needs. Space and economic resources were cited most often as the obstacles to realizing cultural programs; additionally, the participants pointed to the need for teachers and quality instruction in the arts and in general in the schools. They often expressed the perception that the greater community did not value or understand Latino cultural expressions, including linguistic and musical traditions. This concern became a key item that signaled the greater community's lack of understanding of the contributions or the value of Latino cultural expressions. Along with offering locally-based solutions to the obstacles they encounter when they seek to practice their traditional culture, the participants saw a need to network with other similar communities in the state. Finally, the dreams of all the participants generally fell into two major categories-individual and communal. Most often they expressed a vision of an inclusive culturally pluralistic society where there would be a designated locale for events and performance of Latino traditional cultural expressions. Often the participants' dreams for their community included an all-inclusive ambience where cultural difference was celebrated and respected.

top of the page top

In the recent past, Idaho has taken proactive steps in making state services accessible to its Latino population. The Governor's Hispanic Initiative (GHI) established under Governor Batt and the recent visit to Mexico by current Governor Kempthorne point to the fact that Idaho is indeed serious in its effort to understand and include Latinos in all aspects of the state's mission. However, faced with the ever increasing Latino population and a history of Latinos in the state, Idaho must expand its area of interest to include the arts and cultural expressions of this significant part of its citizenry. While previous attention to economic, housing, and education issues, especially as they pertain to at-risk youth, have proven that the state will address the critical needs of the Latino population, the omission of any concentrated effort to attend to the cultural and artistic needs of the community indicates that there are still areas that need attention. The state must assess how well it is serving the needs of artists and communities in terms of cultural and artistic resources. In fact, addressing the needs of the community in the arts and humanities will also affect the general well-being of all Idahoans. As a number of studies indicate, arts education affects school achievement and retention rates positively and has a positive impact on learning overall. Quality of life for all Idahoans and the future of the state depend on attention to all areas of the state's social and cultural affairs as well as economic and educational issues. The GHI report (http://www2.state.id.us/icha/Publication/Governsinitiative.htm), for example, sets goals for various state agencies but does not mention either the Humanities or Arts Commissions.

With the State's commitment in mind and with the realization that some previous work has been done to document the history and the cultural expressions of the Latino population in Idaho, I came to Idaho to survey the folk and traditional arts among said population in the southeastern area of the state where there is a concentration of Latinos; unfortunately, I was not able to also visit the western part of the state, along the border with Oregon, another heavily Latino populated area.

One of the first steps to take when assessing needs or when looking at the viability of arts programs involves doing a survey. Folk arts surveys generally are designed to identify artists and community resources that then the state or arts agencies can either tap as a resource or can serve according to the needs. Often, such a survey involves a prolonged period of time in which a folklorist does field work and documents the various artists in these communities. Mario Montaño's fieldwork report done over a decade ago and my own week-long visit to the state are attempts at documenting the traditional artists found in the state, but do not constitute in-depth surveys (1989-1990). My charge, like Montaño's, was to document but not necessarily to do in-depth interviews. I along with the Idaho Commission on the Arts (ICA) Director of the Folk Arts Program, Maria Carmen Gambliel, traveled on a fact-gathering mission, meeting with members of communities, in the previously identified communities in counties with a significant Latino population. In all occasions, I was impressed by the resourcefulness and the dynamic cultural life that the Latino population enjoys whether in a jaripeo in Burley or a 5 de mayo celebration in Caldwell. The economic impact on the communities became clear to us as we visited tienditas and panaderias where one can buy Mexican products and produce and the traditional and ever popular pan dulce, sweet bread. In many communities the store was adjacent to a restaurant or a dance hall where, often, social dances are held and that are the sites of receptions for weddings and quinceañeras. Also evident to us was the increasing social scene in these communities. It is easy to glean how businesses cater to a specific clientele. The grocery stores catering to these communities invariably also offered Spanish language video sales and rentals as well as a wide assortment of products from Mexico. Of course, the restaurants and bars make a brisk business in both the Latino and the community at large.

As Ms. Gambliel and I traveled to the various communities and spoke to both those who attended our formal meetings and to those whom we happened to encounter in restaurants, or stores, it became evident that this report would be but a perfunctory gleaning of the rich and varied material available. In this written report, I have gathered information culled from the formal meetings held in the nine sites; I have incorporated personal conversations, observations, and research conducted on the Internet and in various print resources. The data gathered in the meetings focuses on the following key questions that we asked the participants to consider; I have added the most common responses in parentheses: what are the cultural expressions and resources available in the community (fiestas, artists, teachers), what are the problems or obstacles that impede the cultural expressions (lack of resources--economic and otherwise-lack of space), what are the solutions to the problems (funding, teachers, space allocations, organizing, networking), and what are the dreams you have for your community and its artistic expressions (a cultural center where we can have classes and events, money for instruments, a space where we can have jaripeos, teachers to teach danza and Spanish, a college, pride in our cultura and acceptance of all cultures). We taped all the proceedings, and the voices speak in unison as they reiterate the same obstacles and the same dreams. No, this was not the usual arts survey, but we did uncover a wealth of artistic resources. We spoke with numerous musicians like Stan Casiano, an accordion player who teaches at home; to various elderly women like Guadalupe Carranza who embroider in the traditional method and even do the deshilado that is rare to find even in some areas of Mexico; and we listened to the teachers and participants of a number of dance groups, both folklórico and Azteca, that have survived in some cases for several decades. But, as many artists and performers as we spoke to, full documenting of the traditional artistic expressions and surveying the extent of activity remains to be done. In the following pages, I offer an overview of the goals and objectives for the project, a brief history and demographic data of Latinos in Idaho, as well as population projections for the state; I give an overview of the site visits by focusing on the questions discussed above. And finally, I will offer recommendations based on the data collected and gathered in hopes that the ICA will strengthen its service record to the Latino community and in partnership with other agencies will address the serious issues raised by the citizens of the state with whom I met. It is imperative that the needs and rights of both the long-time Latino community as well as those newly come to the state are met and respected, for only then will the Latinos and Latinas, who live in this state and who through their toil and immeasurable contributions have helped shape the state, be true and equal members of the Idaho community.

The first part of this report presents the historical and statistical demographic information of Latinos in the country and in Idaho in particular. Then follows my brief reflections on the site visits, followed by the results of the questions and observations, and finally, recommendations and a statement about trends, challenges and opportunities.

top of the page top

As Ms. Gambliel and I devised the questions that we would ask and the sites we would visit, we had in mind several overall goals: to establish contact with the Latino community in each site, to gather information on traditional cultural expressions, specifically folk arts practiced in the community, and finally, but no less important to let the communities know of the existence of the Idaho Arts Commission and its work in the traditional arts. We reminded ourselves, however, that we should not raise false expectations and to make sure that all participants understood the grant process as well as the various programs of the ICA.

Our objectives, more specifically focused on the survey of folk and traditional arts. We distributed grant guidelines to those interested in applying, to disseminate information about the ICA and the grant programs available. We also circulated a copy of the last Hispanic Folk Arts Survey conducted in 1990, published as Living Treasures: Hispanic Artisans and Traditionalists of the Snake River Valley, so that the attendees would understand the purview of our current project. We wanted to have an updated roster of people who would be our contacts in the various communities, so we asked for information in the form of a sign-in sheet where we also requested the names of others who may not be at the meeting but whose artistry in any of the folk areas we mentioned should be noted. In this way we hoped to expand the list beyond those who had been invited to attend. We sought to meet our other objectives via the questions we asked in the gathering. It was here that particular information on the resources already there and what was needed led us to assess the needs of the Latino community. The questions set before the groups were: In your opinion, what are the best existing assets and resources for Latino cultural activity in Idaho?

GRAPHICS What are the major obstacles and needs which have to be addressed in improving Latino cultural activity in Idaho?

GRAPHICS What solutions would you recommend to solve the problems? What do you think needs to happen so that cultural expressions occur without problems?

GRAPHICS What are the dreams you have for your community in terms of folk arts and traditional cultural expressions?

One of our objectives was to gather information on the kind of programs and services the Latino community would like to see. Another focused on how ICA can serve the communities. Everyone who participated and spoke to these questions in round-robin discussions and in open discussions of issues that arose helped generate the information presented in the following pages.

top of the page top

According to Erasmo Gamboa, the Latino presence in Idaho dates to the early 1800s, well before 1848 when the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the U.S. Mexican War and land that had formerly belonged to the nation state of Mexico became part of the United States (Raices Históricas, web site). Most of this land is what is now the Southwestern states of California, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Colorado and parts of Utah, Idaho, and Montana. The early settlers, Spaniards and those of Mexican descent, according to Gamboa, were "largely single men, trappers, adventurers, and trailblazers drawn to this remote area of the West by curiosity of the unknown and the expectation of profiting from the area's natural resources" (Web sites: Raices Históricas, 1992 and Voces Hispanas). Thus the Latino presence in Idaho predates the states' joining the union in 1908. And, as in many other western states, the migration into these territories by people who either lived in the land that had formerly been Mexico or that stayed after the war came for very distinct purposes. In fact, it is still that which drives migration today, economic need. According to Gamboa, "men and women with varied occupations ranging from miners, mule packers, saddle makers, vaqueros, and housekeepers started to arrive in Idaho" after the U.S. Mexico War. And these were either born in California or Texas with the majority born in Sonora, Mexico" (website). Another great migration occurred in the early 20th century, as "an oppressive dictatorship followed by a destructive social revolution gripped the Mexican Republic" (Gamboa, 1990). The cause of this migration again was one that we still find today, a search for safety, as many sought refuge in the United States, where they at least were safe from the civil war that lasted until 1921.

Concurrently, the revolutionary technology that allowed movement of people from the East westward was occurring in the United States. A mere fifty years after the great exodus west that followed the Gold Rush, transportation, more specifically the railroad began what is perhaps the second largest impact on population shift in the country. Idaho was no exception as "railroad companies began to construct miles of new rail lines linking the region to itself and to the rest of the United States." As in Nebraska and other states, many of the workers that came to work on the railroad stayed. Another factor in Idaho's need for an immigrant labor force was farming, for the introduction of irrigation and the readily available river water supply, "transform(ed) the state's fertile but arid soil into highly productive farms" (Gamboa).

From the early part of the 20th century, through two post-world war eras, and even to the end of the century, Mexican immigrant and Mexican American migrant families from Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, and as far away as New Mexico and California have migrated to work the fields of Idaho. Baker cites Mercier and Simon-Smolinski (1990) who estimate that in 1900 only 100 Mexican Americans lived in Idaho, but by 1920s the population had increased tenfold to approximately 1000, largely due to the active recruitment of migrant agricultural workers by sugar beet farmers and others (1995:57-58). Of course, these workers, whether recruited for short-term employment or not, either stayed or returned to Idaho once their contract was up; they decided to make Idaho their home, to stay in a State that they saw afforded economic opportunity.

It is in the communities established by those who chose to remain in Idaho year-round, settling out of the migrant stream, or those who relocated to the state seeking better economic opportunities than were to be found in the economically depressed areas of South Texas or California that the earliest traditional music is heard and where traditional arts flourished and continue to survive a testament to their cultural tenacity.

Erasmo Gamboa has chronicled the migratory ups and downs of the Latino community and has researched the area's Mexican American communities, especially as it pertains to labor issues around World War II (1990) where he explores how during the Depression Mexican immigration and Mexican American migration declined, resuming during the War "when record setting agricultural production resulted in critical farm labor shortages" (Raices Históricas, web site).

We can appreciate the increase in numbers if we consider Gamboa's figures that state "between 1942 and 1947, approximately 15,616 Mexican men were contracted in Mexico for temporary annual farm employment on Idaho farms" (web site). He further explains that these workers, despite being harshly treated (Baker, 58), "became integrated to the already existing cultural matrix of Idaho's pre-World War II Hispanic communities" (web site).

Establishing the history of a Latino presence in Idaho, sketchy as it is, allows us to now navigate the murkier waters of cultural production, murkier because unlike numbers and historical records, cultural expressions do not have a quantitative base for analysis. But, given the vestiges that survive of earlier cultural phenomena and thanks to the work of researchers who have collected oral histories of those who came before and after WW II, we can attest to the existence of a rich cultural life and note the changes in the community's cultural expressions.

In the summer of 2000, as we traveled to Twin Falls, to Pocatello, to Idaho Falls, we found vestiges of the earlier communities, but also new-comers who have moved here, as in the earlier migrations, from Mexico and from other states; internal migration has had an earlier history dating to before 1900 and persists until the present. Like Gamboa explains, we found that the population, "both native Idahoans and more recent arrivals, are making an important contribution to the state." Like him, we found that "many are agricultural workers; men and women who spend a good portion of their lives thinning beets or picking potatoes under the Idaho sky" and that, "Mexican Americans are also railroad, factory, and other blue collar workers... self made Hispanics who have become executives, community leaders, entrepreneurs, teachers, and professionals" (Raices Históricas, web site). But unlike the workers Gamboa interviewed, we found many Latinos who are small shop owners, and we noted an increase in Latinos in other sections of the community; media, food industry, education.

This brief overview of the historical presence of Latinos in Idaho attempts to contextualize what follows, for indeed we found that those attending our meetings represented all these sectors of the Latino community and had therefore varied interests and varied access to resources; however, we also found that all had a common dream, to keep their culture alive. Whether in linguistic persistence so that several sites asked for classes in Spanish, or in celebrating and practicing their traditional culture, for example several sites mentioned 5 de mayo and 16 de Septiembre celebrations along with the Jaripeo and, of course, social dance and foodways traditions. All expressed a desire to maintain their cultural identity and to inculcate in their children pride and respect for who they are as Mexican and Mexican-American.

top of the page top

We have in the previous paragraphs looked at the history of the Latino population in Idaho. Let us now look at what the future holds. In order to understand the population growth and track trends for Idaho, it is useful to look at the general Latino population in the United States, as recorded in the U.S. Census statistics. By so doing, we can discern patterns of population shifts and predict future trends. Although as I write this we do not yet have the final count of the 2000 census figures, I use the latest updated figures found on the U.S. Census government web site; all the statistical data used in the following is taken from that web site. In 1997, an estimated 29.7 million Latinos resided in the United States, representing 11.1 percent of the total population. Of these, more than one-half (55.8 percent) were born in the United States. Because the Latino population in Idaho has consistently grown in the last decade, and at an increasingly rapid rate, I am including some data on projections for this growth. For each year from 1997 to 2050, it is projected that less than half of total U.S. population growth would occur to the combined Black and White non-Hispanic populations. Nationally, the race/ethnic groups with the highest rates of increase would be the Hispanic-origin and the Asian and Pacific Islander populations with annual growth rates that may exceed 2 percent until 2030. In comparison, even at the peak of the Baby Boom era, the total U.S. population never grew by 2 percent in a year. Every year from now to 2050, the race/ethnic group adding the largest number of people to the population would be the Hispanic-origin population. In fact, after 2020 the Hispanic population is projected to add more people to the United States every year than would all other race/ethnic groups combined. By 2010, the Hispanic-origin population may become the second-largest race/ethnic group, although this trend will not necessarily apply to Idaho, we can ascertain that the Latino population growth in the state will be significant.

top of the page top

In looking at the demographic projections, for the state, I make the argument that the arts community must respond and be prepared for what is the future state of Idaho. In 1995, Idaho had a population of 1.2 million people and was ranked as the 41st most populous among the 50 states and District of Columbia. By 2000, it is projected to be the 39th most populous with 1.3 million people. By 2025, it is projected to be the 40th most populous with 1.7 million people. Over the three decades, Idaho's total population is expected to increase approximately by 576 thousand people. Among the 50 states and District of Columbia, the state's net gain ranks as the 31st largest. Its rate of population change, at 49.5 percent, ranks as the 6th largest. From 1995 to 2000, the state would have a net increase of 183 thousand people, which would rank as the 23rd largest net gain in the nation. But, the increase has been far greater than these 1995 projections indicated, and analysts and demographers expect the 2000 census to reveal a much more vigorous growth, much of it due to both international and national migration into the state. Idaho is expected to gain 33 thousand people through international migration between 1995 and 2025, placing it 37th largest among the net international migration gains among the 50 states and District of Columbia. The results of the 2000 Census, is expected to show an increase in this number. Another factor affecting population growth is internal migration, that is the relocation of people from within the United States. A greater increase will be due to internal migration as Idaho is projected to rank 17th largest among the 50 states and District of Columbia in the number of persons gained through net internal migration between 1995 and 2025, gaining 257 thousand persons. Again, the 2000 Census figures, it is believed, will indicate a greater gain due to internal migration.

Another factor for population growth, birth and death statistics, as projected in 1995, indicated that during the 1995 to 2025 period, Idaho could have 627 thousand births and 379 thousand deaths. Among the 50 states and District of Columbia, the state could rank 39th largest in births and 40th largest in deaths. It is expected to rank 31st largest in terms of its natural increase (birth minus deaths). But, again, with the changes in international and national migration increase, these numbers would also change. Given that the Latino population moving into the state has a high birth rate and is relatively young, this critical figure is expected to alter dramatically.

In Idaho as in the rest of the country, yet another factor will affect the population projections: the aging Baby Boom generation (those born between 1946 and 1964). The states will generally be getting older. Most states and the District of Columbia are projected to show a decline in the proportion of youth (under 20 years old) in their populations. The percentage of Idaho's population classified as youth is projected to decrease from 33.3 percent in 1995 to 26.9 percent in 2025. Its rank among the 50 states and District of Columbia is expected to be the 3rd largest proportion of youth in 1995 and the 13th largest proportion of youth in 2025. As the growth of the elderly population (65 and over) accelerates rapidly, the size of the elderly population is projected to increase in all states and the District of Columbia reaching unparalleled levels by the year 2025.

The proportion of Idaho's population classified as elderly is expected to increase from 11.4 percent in 1995 to 21.5 percent in 2025. Among the 50 states and District of Columbia, the state will have the 10th highest proportion of elderly in 2025.

But with the influx of a much younger population into the state the percentages may in fact be less. On the other hand, Idaho's dependency ratio, the number of youth (under age 20) and elderly (ages 65 and over) there would be for every 100 people of working ages (20 to 64 years of age), could rise from 80.9 in 1995 to 94.1 in 2025. The 1995 and 2025 ratios rank the state as the 3rd largest and 5th largest, respectively, among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Now, these figures include all the population of the state. But if we examine the statistical data for particular race and ethnic groups the demographic trend that is changing the profile of the State's population is much more evident.

top of the page top

According to the Census Bureau's projections, by 2025, non-Hispanic Whites in Idaho would comprise 84.7 percent of the state's population, down from 91.4 percent in 1995. For the sake of comparison I am including the figures for the other ethnicities as reported in the Census figures, and note that all of them are projected to increase: "Non-Hispanic African Americans would comprise 0.5 percent of the state population in 2025, up from 0.4 percent in 1995. Non-Hispanic American Indians, Eskimos, and Aleut would comprise 1.2 percent of the 1995 state population and 1.6 percent of the 2025 state population. Non-Hispanic Asians and Pacific Islanders would increase from 1 percent of the 1995 state population to 1.4 percent of the 2025 state population. Persons of Hispanic origin, who may be of any race, is projected to increase from 6.1 percent of the 1995 state population to 11.8 percent of the 2025 state population." In other words, the Hispanic population will grow by 191.1 percent between 1995 and 2025; the number of non-Hispanic Whites residing in Idaho is projected to increase by 409 thousand, compared to a gain of 135 thousand for persons of Hispanic origin.

A look at the numeric change in Idaho's populations taken directly from the Census web site reveals that the state's "non-Hispanic White population from 1995 to 2025 ranks as the 18th largest gain among the 50 states and District of Columbia. In the same period, the non-Hispanic African American population change ranks as the 44th largest gain, while the non-Hispanic American Indian, Eskimo, and Aleut population change ranks as the 17th largest gain. The non-Hispanic Asian and Pacific Islander population change ranks as the 43rd largest gain, while the Hispanic population change ranks as the 24th largest gain. During the 30 year period, Idaho's non- Hispanic White population will grow by a rate of 38.5 percent; the non-Hispanic African American population by 132.4 percent; the non-Hispanic American Indian, Eskimo, and Aleut population by 102 percent; and the non-Hispanic Asian and Pacific Islander population by 112.6 percent."

The following rankings shed light on how the state's growth compares to the rest of the country: "Among the 50 states and District of Columbia, the rate of growth for non-Hispanic Whites ranks 1st largest. The non-Hispanic African American growth rate ranks 1st largest, while the non-Hispanic American Indian, Eskimo, and Aleut growth rate ranks 5th largest. The non- Hispanic Asian and Pacific Islander growth rate ranks 37th largest, while the Hispanic growth rate ranks 4th largest" (http://www.census.gov). But since the 2000 census figures are not yet available, these figures, based on demographic data from the 1990 census with updates in 1995, are already too conservative. The 2000 Census data are expected to reflect higher figures; there is no doubt that the increase by 2025 will also be higher.

Population numbers, demographic projections and data gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau, however, cannot ever offer a real picture of the population; these are projections, estimates, and ultimately rely largely on surveys, which because of the nature of the legal status of many of the Latino population in Idaho may not offer a true picture. In fact, the flourishing business community is perhaps a better indicator, albeit an unofficial one, of the rate of growth. Invariably, during the meetings held in the State in June 2000, I heard participants comment on the increase of businesses and of the greater numbers of Latinos in their communities.

Because of the transitory nature of the population in the state, it is difficult to ascertain a definite population figure for the Latino population that according to various sources explodes to almost triple the number of permanent residents during the summer harvest season. Our visits to the sites in June confirmed much of what the data indicates-a growing permanent presence and booming economic activity. But, we were not just looking for numbers; during our visits to these centers of Latino presence, we were also looking for evidence of what cultural practices and traditional arts these Latino communities maintain and how cultural expression is deployed in the community.

top of the page top

commission & community | grants & awards | resources | what's new | arts, craft, festivals | calendar
arts education | community development | artist services | folk & traditional arts | literature | advocacy | special events |
site map | search | ica home | art map home

contact: info@arts.idaho.gov
webmaster: ludmilla saskova
codemaster: robert dickow

Phone: 208/334-2119 or 800/278-3863 Fax: 208/334-2488
Mailing address: P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0008
Street address: 2410 North Old Penitentiary Rd., Boise, ID 83712
site designed and developed by bgp