Quick quiz: Which has more Hispanic residents, Utah or Puerto Vallarta, Mexico?

Utah does now with a census-estimated 306,500 Hispanics compared to tourist-haven Puerto Vallarta's population of 304,100.

It is one of many numbers that shows how Latinos are growing in numbers and importance in Utah and America. So for the 20th year in a row, Congress has designated today through Oct. 15 as Hispanic Heritage Month to celebrate Latino cultures.

"It's a great opportunity to learn about the Latino community and who we are," through activities at schools, churches and the community, or simply talking to neighbors, said Tony Yapias, director of Proyecto Latino de Utah.

Frank Cordova, executive director of Utah Coalition of La Raza, adds, "I don't think they (non-Latino Utahns) realize how important Latinos are." He notes that Mexican explorers, for example, reached Utah nine years before Spanish Father Escalante. "We've been in Utah longer than most people," and Utah once was even in Mexican territory.

Yapias said, "Because of the heat of the immigration debate, too often people don't take time to get to know their (Latino) neighbors ... but there is so much we can learn from each other."

Following are numbers from the Census Bureau and a few other federal agencies that show the importance of maybe learning more about Latinos as their population grows. (Also worth noting is that Hispanic Heritage Month starts today because it is the independence day for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, while Mexico's independence day is Tuesday and Chile's is Thursday):

45.5 million. The estimated Hispanic population of the United States on July 1, 2007. It is about 15 percent of the nation's population, and its largest minority group.

2nd. Ranking of the size of the U.S. Hispanic population worldwide in 2007. Only Mexico (108.7 million) had a larger Hispanic population. Spain was third with 40.4 million. (Hispanics are defined by the census as those who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries.)

52 percent. How much the Latino population in Utah grew between 2000 and 2007. The census estimates it grew from 105,000 to 306,500.

Nearly 12 percent. The percentage of Utahns who are Hispanic.

1 of every 2. Percentage of people born in the United States between July 1, 2006, and July 1, 2007, who were Hispanic.

30 percent. The percentage of the U.S. population that is expected to be Hispanic by 2050.

64 percent. The percentage of Hispanic-origin people in the United States who are of Mexican background.

48 percent. The percentage of the Hispanic-origin population that lives in California or Texas. California is home to 13.2 million Hispanics, and Texas is home to 8.6 million.

20. The number of states where Hispanics are the largest minority group. They are Utah, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.

78 percent. Percentage of Hispanics age 5 and older who speak Spanish at home. Interestingly, 29 percent of all Texas residents (of any background) speak Spanish at home, the highest of any state.

7.6 million. The number of Hispanic citizens who reported voting in the 2004 presidential election. That was about 6 percent of all votes cast that year.


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