As the city of Omaha changes, its Latino population follows suit.

The new study out of the University of Nebraska at Omaha challenges the association with Latinos and South Omaha. (photo by Ben Bohall, NET News)
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January 12, 2016 - 6:44am

Omaha is a diverse city. Part of that has to do with its rising Latino population. But a new study out of the University of Nebraska Omaha is showing how Omaha Latinos are themselves becoming more diverse. NET News talks with  Dr. Lourdes Gouveia. She’s one of the authors of the study offering the first detailed analysis of the trends of Latinos living in various parts of the city.


NET NEWS: This study seems to challenge some of the generalizations that are usually made about Omaha’s Latino population.

DR. LOURDES GOUVEIA: “One of the major generalizations in Omaha and throughout the state, I think, is that Latinos and South Omaha are somehow synonymous. They're not anymore. Forty-four percent of Latinos do not live in South Omaha. That's a growing and significant proportion of the Latino population. They deal with in every other single zip code of the city. And the other major set of generalizations is that Latinos are somehow all laborers who are Spanish speakers, have low education, and low skills. We have increasing diversity within the Latino population.”

Dr. Lourdes Gouveia is one of the authors of the study. (courtesy photo)

NET NEWS: I want to go back to your point there on the dispersion. Do we know why that forty-four percent have moved throughout city to the other sectors?

DR. LOURDES GOUVEIA: “We’ve heard conversations from organized forums within the communities. They have expressed that often that means looking, from their perspective, for better housing for a growing family, or for better schools. But there's no consensus. It's also something that coincides with the rest of the nation. Latinos are moving to the suburbs. All throughout the country it is a major movement. There are reports from major think tanks, nationally, that show the majority of Latinos may actually be living in suburbs. So Omaha may (soon) be no different.”

NET News: How do all these changes possibly affect the aspect of the Latino identity and the sense of community across the city?

DR. LOURDES GOUVEIA:  “Well, clearly, we are very much shaped by the environments in which we exist. We’re shaped by the people around us, the schools we go to, the types of amenities we’re able to use. So if you have a city that is fragmented and different spaces provide very different types of environments, Latinos like everybody else are going to be responding and shaped by them. The suburbs, for example, are particularly white and their racial compositions are different from the racial compositions of different parts of the city which are particularly diverse. Politically, we know that West Omaha tends to vote more republican than East Omaha so you are exposed to political ideologies that are different. Linguistically, the farther west you go, the less Spanish you hear. So the less Spanish the children of the second generation, US-born Latinos are likely to use and want to use. It’s definitely your class identity- who you think you are, your occupations, who you want to be. All of that can change the future of Latinos. We all have to have our polls as to what that means.”

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