Indiana Humanities Council
In partnership with the
National Endowment for the Humanities
VOICES OF DIVERSITY
The total Hispanic population for Elkhart County in 2006 was listed by the Bureau of Census as 26,493, placing it third among the Indiana’s 92 counties in the state’s total share of Latino population and No. 2 behind Lake County in percent of its total population. Between 2000 and 2005 more than 8,000 moved to Elkhart County, second only to Marion County (Indianapolis) in growth during these five years. According to Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman, “By 1990, we had diversified to where about 5% of us were minorities. In the next ten years, the minority population had grown to 20%. In the past six years this number has nearly doubled to anywhere from 36-40%. We are indeed a cosmopolitan community.” Goshen Community Schools enrollment of minority students has grown from 9.2% in 1993-94 to 44% in 2006-07. Elkhart Community Schools has seen similar demographic shifts. The vast majority are of Hispanic backgrounds; 2,676 students in Elkhart are English as a New Language students.
These dramatic changes have occurred so rapidly that many in the community have expressed concerns. The following statements are among those gathered by Philip Thomas for his study in 2007, A Report on the Impact of Changing Demographics and Diversity in the City of Goshen: Issues, Challenges & Opportunities:
“Goshen is a very welcoming community. . .but the pace of this change is really pushing people. Most of these folks feel like they woke up one day and their whole community changed.”
“We’re on the brink of crisis with these issues, and the window of opportunity is going to be pretty short.”
“Where is the tipping point? We have been able to handle this situation so far because our value base has been strong enough to support a culture of tolerance, but how is it shifting? We are at a crux: Which way are we going to go?”
We know we are at a critical juncture in our Elkhart County community. Furthermore, we know that many of these new residents can provide valuable resources within our community, in work, family values, and cultural diversity. Clearly more understanding is needed of what benefits accrue to our community from the development of links between the larger community and those immigrants who demonstrate success and leadership qualities, building upon their cultural heritage, while moving into what has become for them a new world and a larger community.
In this project Voices of Diversity provides interviews with six people of various ages living in the Elkhart-Goshen region who are examples of Latino immigrants that have become successful bridging their native cultures and that of Elkhart County. These are persons who are part of the larger community and yet have retained their own cultural identities. They broaden the tapestry of Elkhart County’s culture and at the same time contribute to its economic base.
Why have these Latinos been successful? Here are their reasons for success, as stated or inferred from their interviews:
- Recognition of the very strong importance of education, both formal education and learning from lifelong experiences, i.e., the “college of hard knocks”;
- Hard work, goal setting, and establishing a vision of what they want to accomplish;
- Unwillingness to become bitter in the face of bigotry. In fact, they became even more determined to prove that they could achieve success.
Who are the ‘selected six’?
Here is what they are: Each represents a Latino immigrant (immigrants to Indiana – a couple were technically born in the United States) who is demonstrating a successful life. They are a diverse group, representing people all the way from a high school senior to a PhD.