A new energy is being injected into the state of Nevada by a rapidly increasing Latino population. They are impacting not only the economic, social, educational, and political systems but the popular culture as well. Their influence can be seen in the media, sports, music, comedy, religion, art, and dance.
Not counting the undocumented, the Latino population of Nevada is 563,999, which is roughly 24 percent of the state’s overall population. Those of Mexican descent compose the largest of the Latino groups (449,767). Overall, almost one in four Nevadans are of Latin American descent. When the census data were adjusted in 2005, one in three Nevadans in the southern part of the state where the majority of the Latino population is located were Latinos.3 With such a large percentage of the population, it is no wonder that the Latino impact which is not only economic and political, but cultural as well is widespread and ubiquitous.
After suffering discrimination and prejudice for many years, Nevada’s Latinos have begun to legitimize their language and culture: Latino food has been incorpo- rated into the mainstream’s diet; the various Latino dialects of Spanish are accepted by Anglo Americans; and Latino music has crossed over to the mainstream public. The presence of the Spanish language is so great that bilingual signs are commonplace and Spanish-language training is provided for police, social workers, construction workers, and others whose profession brings them in contact with Latinos. Increasingly, Spanish-English bilingualism is a ticket to a good job.
For the last few years Nevada’s school districts had to scramble to find bilingual teachers to instruct the rapidly increasing Latino student population. In fact, Latino student enrollment has recently surpassed white student enrollment in the Clark County School District, the largest school district in Nevada, and the fifth largest in the nation.