Vermont is home to an estimated 0.6 percent of all Latinos in New England. Its small Latino population consists of people who have migrated to the state, and their socioeconomic profile supports the claim of an emerging Latino middle class. This trend is also occurring in the other northern New England states of Maine and New Hampshire. These three states are noted for having small Latino populations, as only 3.6 percent of all Latinos (regardless of place of birth) resided in one of these three northern New England states in 2000 but those Latinos are making important social and economic contributions to these states.1 The Latino population grew more rapidly and thereby contributed more to overall population growth than other ethno-racial groups in New England during the 1990s. The region’s Latino population growth was driven almost equally by migration and births to resident Latinos in the three northern New England states.2
Vermont is known for acceptance of cultural differences, but surprisingly, this openness is not reflected in the diversity of its population. Although an increasing number of Latino migrants are settling in nontraditional U.S. destinations, including New England, Vermont has not become a destination for significant numbers of Latino migrants.3 As a result, Latino contributions to Vermont reflect their limited, but growing presence. Overall, Vermont’s population grew by 8.8
percent during the 1990s, from 562,758 in 1990 to 608,827 in 2000. Although only a small proportion of Vermont’s population is nonwhite (3.8 percent), Latinos are the second-largest ethno-racial minority group and had a population increase of 15.9 percent in the 1990s. This growth was smaller than that of Asians (22.7 percent) and non-Latino blacks (20.3 percent), but larger than that of nonLatino whites (6.9 percent). As of April 2000, Mexicans (1,167) and Puerto Ricans (1,089) represented the two largest Latino populations in Vermont. Colombians (333), Cubans (333), and Peruvians (120) were the next-largest populations. Also included in the ten largest Latino populations in the state were Dominicans, Guatemalans, Ecuadorians, Hondurans, and Salvadorans.
All these Latino groups saw an increase during the 1990s, except for Colombians, Dominicans, and Hondurans. The Latino population growth in Vermont is driven from nativity, not from migration: only 34.1 percent of the Latino population in 2000 was born outside the continental United States, compared to 47.4 percent in 1990. Even with this decline, only Asians had a higher percentage of foreign-born residents in Vermont.
Demographic and individual characteristics for Latinos in Vermont are presented in this chapter to provide a portrait of this relatively small proportion of Vermont’s population that is making increasing economic and cultural contributions to the state. Characteristics of Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Colombians, and Peruvians are provided using U.S. census data. Because of their small population size and recent arrival to the state, Latinos’ historical contributions are limited and have occurred over the last forty years. This chapter’s demographic portrait provides a lens to document these contributions. Latinos in Vermont present an interesting profile that is at times different from that of Latinos in other regions of the country. Examples of Latino contributions that support this demographic portrait are included to further demonstrate how Latinos are influencing the state’s economic and social life.
The demand for workers to supply labor for Vermont’s granite and marble mills drew the initial Spanish migrants to the state. Spanish surnames can be found on tombstones dating back to the early 1800s in cemeteries across the state. Similarly, Vermont’s dairy farms are now drawing Latin American workers to the state, and these workers are keeping the state’s dairy farms operational. Today, Latinos find Vermont a welcoming place to express their culture. Vermont provides them with many opportunities to engage in the academic, cultural, economic, and social life of the state. They also are attracted to Vermont because its rural and mountain landscape reminds many of them of their countries of origin. Latinos from New York enjoy vacationing in Vermont, and some have taken up residence in the state. Chittenden County, which includes the city of Burlington, was home to nearly a third of the state’s Latino population in 2000.