West Slope Hispanic population leaps

The growth of the Hispanic population in western Colorado over the last decade outstripped that of the region overall, according to U.S. Census figures.

Garfield County’s Hispanic population grew by 119 percent, well ahead of the county’s overall growth rate of 29 percent between 2000 and 2010 to 56,489.

Garfield County might be seeing the most rapid rate in growth among Hispanics, but it’s hardly alone in seeing growth.

Mesa County’s 26 percent overall growth rate was well behind the 68 percent Hispanic growth rate in the county. Hispanics also grew as a portion of the population, from 10 percent in 2000 to 13 percent of the 146,723 people counted in 2010.

The census might have missed the highest levels of growth in the Hispanic community, said Melvin Madril, a Grand Junction engineer who is active in the Latin-Anglo Alliance.

Employment levels were higher in the 2005–08 period than they were in 2010, when the census was taken, Madril noted.

People from Latin America who were drawn to western Colorado for work generated by natural gas development and construction have seen those job markets evaporate.

Many, however, have found niches in agriculture and domestic work that the unemployed don’t wish to take up, Madril said, noting that Garfield County is home to both the center of the natural gas industry and people who provide services to the mountain resort communities.

“There is still a base level of employment” that immigrant workers will take, Madril said.

Montrose County became a near-microcosm of the state overall, with Hispanics accounting for 20 percent of the county population of 41,276. Statewide, more than 1 million Hispanics were counted in the 2010 census, accounting for 21 percent of the population.

Montrose County’s Hispanic population growth rate of 64 percent over the decade, outstripping the statewide growth rate of 41 percent. Montrose County overall grew 23 percent.

In Delta County, the overall growth rate and growth rate of Hispanics were similar, Hispanics growing by 14 percent and the county overall by 11 percent to 30,952.

Rio Blanco County, the least-populated in western Colorado, saw its Hispanic population rise by 125 percent, bringing it to 10 percent of the county’s 6,600 population in 2010. Rio Blanco County grew by 11 percent over the decade.


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