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Many Hispanics Say They Feel At Home In Deltona

The 2000 census found 12,747 Hispanics living in Deltona, a 145 percent increase from 1990.

By Vicky Koren

November 18, 2001
Copyright © 2001
ORLANDO SENTINEL. All Rights Reserved.

DELTONA -- Nelson and Lucy Ayala sit on the back terrace of their home overlooking a lake surrounded by lush landscaping.

The serene setting is a refuge for the couple who worked hard at their Spanish supermarket and now are enjoying the fruits of their labor.

It is clear that home is everything to them --a place where they spend time with family and friends and feel most comfortable. And the same holds true for Deltona, an increasingly popular home for Hispanics such as the Ayalas.

The 2000 census found 12,747 Hispanics living in Deltona, a 145 percent increase from 1990, when 5,187 Hispanics were counted.

Hispanics now account for 18 percent of the city's population. And most of the Hispanics living in Deltona are of Puerto Rican descent -- just like the Ayalas.

The two moved to Deltona 15 years ago from New York and can't picture themselves anywhere else.

Nelson Ayala plans to spend the rest of his years in Deltona, he said, as he jokingly points to a spot in the back yard he said will be his final resting place.

The couple say they feel blessed with what they have and "love the American way."

After spending 15 years working at their business, the couple retired two years ago and now spend time with their daughters and grandchildren and tending to their home. They have one daughter in Orlando and another in Deltona.

"My house is my hobby. I love to build," Ayala said, showing off his new shed and a pond area he designed in the garden.

They take trips to Puerto Rico to visit family but "stay there a few weeks and want to come back," Nelson Ayala said.

They celebrate both Puerto Rican and American holidays, so the social calendar is always filled.

The two host Puerto Rican pastimes such as pig roasts and domino games.

On this day, the Ayalas are baby-sitting granddaughter Lucy Isabelle. She flits around the back terrace and plays in the garden as the couple talk about their life in Deltona.

Ayala is looking forward to the birth of his new grandchild, due in December.

"I'm hoping it's a New Year baby, so we can get free Pampers," he jokes.

He explains that because of his Spanish supermarket, he has been able to "appreciate the growth in the Hispanic community" in Deltona.

Seventy-one percent of Hispanics living in Deltona are Puerto Rican. Puerto Ricans also dominate Hispanics countywide.

Of the 29,111 Hispanics living in the county, almost half are Puerto Rican and 27 percent are Mexican. Only 1,570 are of Cuban descent, and 6,262 account for "other" Hispanic descents in Volusia.

Deltona leads county

The Deltona area has more Hispanics than any other municipality in Volusia, and it's growing every day.

Many of them say they simply enjoy living in the growing city.

John Hernandez, 71, publisher of Deltona's Spanish newspaper El Communicador -- The Communicator -- explained why Deltona is so special.

"I am very happy being here and leaving New York. I left the cold weather," he explains. "It's very nice. It's a beautiful community, and we all get along. We have the diversity here. We have no ghettos. We all live happily like one big family."

Hernandez says he likes the idea of driving down the street and seeing a mixture of families all living on the same block.

Hernandez moved to Deltona 30 years ago. He has seen the growth firsthand. He jokes that there are so many Puerto Ricans living in Deltona because "I brought them down with me."

Hernandez points out that when he moved to Deltona, he was the only Hernandez in Deltona.

Now there are 128 people with the same last name in the county, he said. While there are Hispanic associations, events and activities, many Hispanics say life for them does not just consist of Hispanic activities.

'It's a melting pot'

Life is a mixture of their Hispanic culture and their Americanized ways.

For 21-year-old Royden Oyarbide, a native of Miami whose parents were born in Cuba, life consists of many influences.

"I meet everyone on the same level. I have a little bit of everyone around me," he said. And living in Deltona is a direct reflection of this, Oyarbide said. "It's a melting pot. I feel like I am in the midst of everybody.

"I want to continue the culture within myself and within my future family. But at the same time, I don't think anyone should be just your nationality. I feel that people must be open to different cultures," he said.

Oyarbide moved to Deltona with his family 16 years ago and said he is glad to see that the city has grown. He enjoys living in Deltona but said there is one thing he would like to see more of: "It needs more city life. It is way too residential."

The idea of more commercial development and businesses in Deltona is one whose time is long overdue, many say.

"I think the main concern here is the one I personally experienced when I came here 30 years ago," Hernandez said. "My son graduated high school in 1977 and had to leave the area because there were no jobs available."

His son, John Jr., received his master's degree from Rutgers University and now is a professor of arts at Rutgers.

"We need to use all the effort we can to better our community for our children and grandchildren. Let's bring in more professional jobs. Why go out and work someplace else?" Hernandez said.

Nelson Ayala agrees: "I feel sorry for all these young couples that live here that have to commute so far."

Seeking Hispanic business

Hernandez said a group of people is trying to organize a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to "bring in more Hispanic business."

He said he tried to do it years ago without success, but "the time is right now. The growth in Deltona is enormous."

Oyarbide and his family are looking forward to opening a jewelry store in Deltona. The store is called Marsilvia Jewelry -- a name derived from combining parts of his mother's and father's names. It's set to open this month on Saxon Boulevard.

"I am very optimistic about it," said Oyarbide, who is in his third year at the University of Central Florida with plans for a marketing degree. Oyarbide said he will help the family with the business and hopes it expands to other cities.

Another area of interest among many in the community is the involvement of Hispanics in local politics.

Blanca Hernandez, president of the Volusia County Hispanic Association and a resident of Deltona for 15 years, said: "I don't think Hispanics want to see anything different than any other resident. We are looking for the same thing."

Hernandez said that as a representative of a civic group, she does not endorse or discuss local politics, but agreed that "Hispanics need to get involved. I think everybody should get involved with their city. If you love your city . . . you get involved."

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