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Associated Press Newswires

Hispanics Integrating Into Florida, Blacks Remaining Segregated

Associated Press Writer Ron Word in Jacksonville contributed to this report

DECEMBER 2, 2001
Copyright © 2001
Associated Press Newswires. All Rights Reserved.

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. (AP) - It took about eight years before Ramon and Rosa Tirado could enjoy shopping at a nearby supermarket that caters to their Puerto Rican tastes.

The couple, who moved to this city in southwest Broward County from Miami-Dade County more than a decade ago, now shop at a Sedano's Supermarket, which opened a store here in 1998. Last year, a Navarro pharmacy opened.

The arrival of both Hispanic-owned chains underscored what has been apparent for years: Hispanics have been moving into this city of wide roads and sprawling gated communities.

But as Florida's Hispanic population has grown, it also has integrated largely with non-Hispanic whites, while blacks are remaining highly segregated, according to an analysis of census data by The Associated Press.

Only thirteen cities in Florida with population over 100,000 were counted in the analysis.

An index range from zero to 100 was used to plot the extent to which a city was segregated or integrated. The lower the number, the more a city is integrated. The higher the number, the more it is segregated. Zero means perfect integration and 100 indicates perfect segregation.

Hialeah - where 90.34 percent of the city's 226,419 residents are Hispanic - topped the nation as the most integrated large city in the country.

Pembroke Pines, where Hispanics make up about 28 percent of the population, ranked second in Florida and ninth in the United States as most integrated.

Hialeah had index figure of 28.18, followed by Pembroke Pines at 30.37.

That revelation was not surprising to the Tirados, who point to their neighborhood's diversity. The homes on the street where the Tirados live house many white families along with those from Ecuador, Chile, Colombia and Jamaica.

"It's a very mixed community," said Ramon Tirado, 58, adding half-jokingly: "When you come in five years it will be all Puerto Rican."

Karen Janssen, 41, moved to a town home in Pembroke Pines a year ago from a suburb in Miami-Dade County. She said her neighborhood now has immigrants from Iran, India and Puerto Rico among her neighbors.

"It's just really mixed," she said. "The Latinos from (Miami-Dade County) are moving here."

While the Hispanic population is getting more integrated into white society, the black population is becoming more segregated, the analysis showed.

Blacks remain highly segregated in the Sunshine State with 11 of the 13 Florida cities in the analysis having index numbers considered in the high range.

Miami, where 22.31 percent of the population is black, and St. Petersburg, where 22.36 percent of the population is black, have index figures above 80.

But Fort Lauderdale leads the list at 85.03. The ranking makes it the most segregated city in Florida and seventh most-segregated in the nation.

The city's 44,010 black residents make up 28.88 percent of the city's 152,397 population.

William J. Cone, 65, runs a hat apparel store and printing business among other ventures in a section of the city largely populated by blacks. He said white and black-owned businesses used to thrive along Sistrunk Boulevard, where his businesses are located. Now it is just a dilapidated commercial strip.

Cone said riots that broke out during civil rights protests in the 1960s "really knocked us back." Most of the white business owners left after the riots, he said.

"We need a mixed group, that's going to be our salvation," Cone said.

The Rev. Wilson M. Davis, pastor at the New Hope Baptist Church nearby, said there are no Hispanics in his congregation of 700.

"I've had about three whites here in total the last 25 years," said Davis, 73, adding that now he has one.

Davis said he isn't surprised by the ranking Fort Lauderdale received.

"That was my guess," he said. "Churchwise, we're more segregated than anywhere."

Other Florida cities with highly segregated black populations are Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville and Hollywood. Only Pembroke Pines and Coral Springs had an index figure in the moderate range for segregated black populations.

In the 1990 Census, Hialeah was 12th in terms of segregation of Hispanics, when 87.58 percent of its residents were Hispanic. Pembroke Pines was not listed in the 1990 Census, because its population was below 100,000.

The steady development of gated communities in Pembroke Pines over the past decade may have played a role in the integration of the city's residents.

Dave Frank, Pembroke Pine's growth management director, estimates that gated communities make up between 1/4 and 1/3 of all the housing in the city.

"There are a lot of gated communities out there with a good mix," said Mayor Alex Fekete. "It's the type of housing that is being built that makes it affordable for all walks of life."

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