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9055: Caribbean communities nearly triple in 10 years (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <email@example.com>
Caribbean communities nearly triple in 10 years
By Sean Cavanagh
August 18, 2001
Surging from the ranks of the uncounted, Haitians in Broward County nearly
tripled in population during the past decade, an ascent mirrored by their
booming numbers across Florida, according to new census figures.
That increase was seen in other Caribbean communities as well. Their overall
population in the county soared from 56,893 10 years ago to 154,714 today.
Jamaicans remain the top West Indian population in Broward, with 67,945
residents, more than double their number a decade ago and edging the Haitian
“We have Jamaicans coming here, but also people from many other Caribbean
island nations,” said Lauderdale Lakes Mayor Sam Brown, a native of Jamaica.
“I’m pleased that a mix of people is moving into the city. With different
cultures, we appreciate each other a little better.”
One of the most elusive populations tracked in the new census data were
Haitians, who number 65,100, up from 23,221 in 1990.
And even those estimates probably fail to gauge the true size of a community
where fear of the census, poverty and language barriers hinder the counting
process, observers say.
“I can tell you right now it’s probably inaccurate,” said Marvin Dejean, of
Minority Development & Empowerment in Fort Lauderdale, and a
Haitian-American. “There are a lot of people who did not fill out the
survey. The census is asking information that in my country is considered
Still, the Haitian influx resounds throughout Florida and nationwide. This
year, 267,869 residents of the state said they were of Haitian origin, an
increase from roughly 105,495 10 years ago.
Those figures give Florida the largest Haitian population in the nation,
greater even than New York, long viewed as a primary haven for arrivals from
the Caribbean nation.
Some suggested the growth in Broward’s Haitian community reflected a
shifting social class, too, with more residents seeking out homes in
“In Dade, there’s been this gradual trend northward out of Little Haiti,”
said Alex Stepick, director of the Immigration and Ethnicity Institute at
Florida International University. “Those western suburbs in Broward, like
Miramar, are considered the next big jump, when you can afford your own
For years, some of the densest pockets of Haitians in Broward have been in
Lauderhill, Pompano Beach and the neighborhoods north of downtown Fort
In recent years, that population has spread to eastern Plantation, where
along Northwest 46th Avenue, the Seventh-day Adventist Bilingual School
works with a student population that is about three-quarters Haitian.
Outside classrooms, painted lettering on walls quotes biblical scripture in
English and French: “Tous Tes Fils Seront Disciples de L’Eternal.” (All Thy
Children Shall Be Taught of the Lord).
In the classrooms, 120 students from kindergarten through eighth grade, who
may have struggled in traditional public schools, are taught English but
helped along in French instruction, too.
“Here, we address their needs,” said George Aristide, the school’s
At home, many of the children have been taught Creole. French is taught in
class, because it is a better tool, Aristide says.
Founded six years ago, the school and church next door sit in a tree-lined
neighborhood of wide lawns and quiet streets, which in the past decade saw
many whites leave and many Caribbean-born residents move in.
“I’m proud to be Haitian — it’s my origin,” said Christia Etienne Felix, a
teacher who moved from Haiti to New York and then to Florida. “When I talk
to my children, I always teach them to be proud.”
Felix, who lives in Lauderhill, filled out a census form but understood why
many of her fellow Haitians might be reluctant.
“In Haiti, when they want to know about you, you’re in trouble,” the
44-year-old said. “If your husband is in trouble politically, you are, too.”
The latest population estimates, released Thursday, were part of a study
conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau called the American Community Survey.
The study sampled a number of households in selected counties across the
country. Broward was the only Florida county to be surveyed.
The estimates showed increases in several other West Indian communities in
Broward. The recount showed 6,793 natives of Trinidad and Tobago, 4,190
Bahamians, 1,527 British West Indians and 7,165 who simply called themselves
Populations with under a thousand residents were: 602 Barbadians, 488 Dutch
West Indians, 321 U.S. Virgin Islanders and 177 Belizeans. Another 406 said
they fell under the category of other West Indian.
While acknowledging that many Haitians were missed, some community activists
say the effort in South Florida to get them counted was more organized than
ever. For the first time ever, people surveyed in the 2000 census were
allowed to choose more than one race, such as “black” and “other.” Civic
organizations, activists and local radio stations and others urged Haitians
to write in “Haitian,” in the blank next to “other.”
In their movement toward building an identity in the community, Haitians
were no different from immigrant groups of different eras, Dejean said.
“There are a myriad of negative images of being Haitian, so a lot of people
tried to hide their identity, in the same way that Italians and Irish once
did,” Dejean said.
Still, he saw much improvement among the Census Bureau in tracking the
As Haitians and other generations of West Indians became more established in
Broward, they found it easier to trust the census-takers, said Dick Ogburn,
principal planner for the South Florida Regional Planning Council.
“In the overall context of things, the Caribbean[-born resident] probably
has fewer reasons to hide their identities,” Ogburn said. “They’ve probably
been here the longest.”
Staff researchers Patti Parker and John Maines contributed to this report.
Sean Cavanagh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-572-2009.
Copyright © 2001, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
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