Maine is home to an estimated 1.1 percent of all Latinos in New England. This small Latino population in Maine consists of people who have migrated to the southern part of state, where they are forming an emerging middle class. It also includes migrant and seasonal farmworkers who are employed in the state’s blueberry, apple, eggs, Christmas wreath, tree-planting, and broccoli farms. Some of these workers stay year-round to work on the farms in the state. This trend is also occurring in the other New England states of New Hampshire and Vermont. Together with Maine, these two states are noted for having a small Latino population, as only 3.6 percent of all Latinos (regardless of place of birth) in the United States were residing in them in 2000.2
Latinos are an important demographic group to the region, which is experiencing limited population growth, because they are significant contributors to the region’s population growth.3 Latino population growth is driven almost equally by internal migration and births to resident Latinos, and not by migration from other countries, as only 16.7 percent of Maine’s Latinos are foreign born.
Demographic and individual characteristics for Latinos in Maine are presented in this chapter to provide a portrait of this relatively small proportion of Maine’s population that is increasingly making economic and cultural contributions to the state. Because of their small size and recent arrival to the state, Latinos historical contributions are limited, having occurred over the last 40 years. This chapter’s demographic portrait provides a lens to document the contributions that Maine’s emerging Latino population is making. In addition, examples of how Latinos are participating are added to support this demographic portrait.
Although an increasing number of Latino migrants are settling in nontradi-tional U.S. destinations such as New England, Maine has not attracted significant numbers of Latinos, unlike nearby Massachusetts.4 Overall, Maine’s population grew by 3.8 percent during the 1990s, from 1,227,928 in 1990 to 1,274,923 in 2000. Although only a small proportion of Maine’s population is nonwhite (1.5 percent), Latinos form the second-largest ethnic minority group, having had a population increase of 37.1 percent in the 1990s, which was larger than that of Asians (34.9 percent), non-Latino blacks (25.3 percent) and non-Latino whites (1.8 percent). As of April 2000, Mexicans (3,649) and Puerto Ricans (2,561) represented the two largest Latino populations in Maine. Colombians (419), Cubans (323), and Dominicans (272) were the third, fourth, and fifth largest populations, respectively. Also included in the 10 largest Latino populations in the state were Guatemalans, Ecuadorians, Hondurans, Peruvians, and Salvadorans.
Latinos find Maine a welcoming place that offers support upon arrival and provides opportunities to integrate into the state’s social and economic life. Latinos are attracted to Maine also because of its smaller cities with safer neighborhoods which are seen as good places to live and raise families because of opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship, and because of the overall good quality of life the state offers. Most Maine Latinos are U.S.-born people who have moved to that state from other northeastern states such as Massachusetts and New York. The majority of Maine’s Latinos live in the southern part of the state. In 2000 Cumberland County, where the cities of Portland and Brunswick are, was home to nearly a quarter of the state’s Latino population, and nearby York County was home to nearly 15 percent of the state’s Latino population.