Hispanic Population Surges

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Samuel Reyes moved to Reno 10 years ago from Los Angeles. He soon opened a shoe and clothing store on East Plumb Lane. Originally from Puebla, Mexico, Reyes says Northern Nevada offered him something both Mexico and California couldn't.

Looking at a recent Reno/Sparks Hispanic business report, there are now more than 500 Hispanic-owned businesses in Washoe County. Most of them are less than three years old, and interestingly, most of those new businesses started by women.

Eduardo Wagner of the Reno-Spark Hispanic Chamber of Commerce says it's a trend first noticed a decade ago. "It's a very young and I don't mean age wise talking about population wise community, and there are great needs on a daily basis."

The number one need, documentation and naturalization services, to help them become citizens.

Nevada Hispanic Services opened in 1998 to help Latinos with these kinds of issues. The organization started with a small office on Center Street and had 5,000 clients. Today, it has 30,000.

Jesse Gutierrez, chairman of Nevada Hispanic Services, says "They want the American dream. Like everyone else. Jobs are here. Whether it's five or six dollars an hour, they'd rather take that than ask for welfare."

Gutierrez says the challenge over the next 15 years is for Hispanics to start shaping their communities. Very few hold public office, and Gutierrez says if they want to see changes like in wages and health care, they have to be heard.

"What the future holds is we need to start educating kids to take positions of power and start making decisions that make a difference."