SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The influence of the Hispanic and Latino cultures can be seen in communities across Northwest Arkansas.
Moreover, the Hispanic and Latino communities continue to grow in Arkansas. According to the 2020 U.S. Census, from April 1, 2010 to April 1, 2020, Springdale has seen the highest growth in NWA with 37.6 %.
Some other major cities include Rogers with 33.8 %, Fort Smith with 19.5%, Bentonville with 10.2% and then Fayetteville 7.6 %.
Some community leaders say despite the growth in population the number of resources available to meet their growing needs isn’t there.
Margarita Solorzano is the Director and Founder of the Hispanic Women’s Organization of Arkansas. It started back in 1999. The non-profits promotes higher education and the advancement of Hispanic people.
“It was really important because the demographics were really changing and the influx of Latinos represented a new set of issues that cities and counties were not able to address,” said Solorzano.
She says like her, many Latin-X people were drawn to the low cost of living and employment opportunities here in the natural state. In the past two decades, she has seen firsthand the impact and the influence of the Hispanic culture in the local communities and beyond.
“We bring new ideas, we bring the labor tradition that is hard-working, and family-oriented.. and we bring our faith” said Solorzano.
However, she says their communities are still behind when it comes to access to higher education, housing, healthcare, and legal services to name a few.
“What we see now is the need for more educated professionals that are bilingual, that understands the culture but also the language and understands the system.”
The organization is focused on getting kids to college, through scholarships and mentorships programs. They also provide professional development, immigration services, parenting and computer classes.
Solorzano says it’s important to create diversity in management and leadership roles so they reflect the communities they serve and essentially to better serve them.
She says its also about breaking down the language, cultural and immigration barriers communities face so they can truly flourish.
“Now, there is a real understanding that addressing the needs of the Spanish-speaking population represents the continuation of the economic growth.”
She says the pandemic has shown the need to have focused education and communications about COVID-19, prevention, and vaccinations in Spanish. She says misinformation is also keeping those communities from getting the care they need. During the health crisis, they’ve been partnering with other groups to provide vaccination clinics and continue to spread awareness about the health crisis.
Solorzano says she can see a lot of progress being made in schools offering English learning language programs, and the increase in bilingual and Hispanic educators.
She says education is key to creating more opportunities for their community members. Since the organization was created, they have awarded about 600 scholarships to deserving kids to pursue college education.
“We are growing as a community but we are establishing Arkansas as our home. That’s important. We are here to stay. We want to contribute to the community but we also want to be accepted,” said Solorzano.