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Hispanics account for much of census jump

The population of Dade City increased about 10 percent. The Hispanic population countywide grew by 111 percent.


© St. Petersburg Times, published March 28, 2001

The population of Dade City increased about 10 percent. The Hispanic population countywide grew by 111 percent.

DADE CITY -- For one, Pastor Cathy Coffey isn't amazed that the census shows that number of Hispanics in Pasco more than doubled in the 1990s.

"I don't think these numbers are surprising," said Coffey, chaplain for Farmworkers Self-Help in Dade City. "I think they were very undercounted last time. I don't think they went out and looked for Hispanic people.

"I was told by people in the county government that minorities on the whole accounted for less than 2 percent in Pasco last time. That's a joke. This seems more reasonable."

The Hispanic population in the county has skyrocketed, up from 9,309 people 10 years ago to 19,603 today. That's a 111 percent jump.

Hispanics now make up 6 percent of the county's population, according to the results. Statewide, they make up 16.8 percent.

Of the Pasco increase, Coffey estimated that most new Hispanic people are coming to the east side of the county, especially Dade City.

She estimated that at least 10,000 to 15,000 seasonal workers call this corner of Pasco home, at least a portion of the year.

"We've got more and more of them buying houses here," said Coffey, pointing out that there are now five or six Hispanic businesses in town. "I think Dade City is becoming an area that really attracts farm workers, most of whom are Mexican.

"There's now a business base for them to go to and be catered to."

Dade City itself saw a population increase of about 10 percent over 1990.

City Manager Doug Drymon said it wasn't immediately clear where the increase came, as population rose from 5,633 residents in 1990 to 6,188, up 9.8 percent. But any increase was welcome, he said.

"We have annexed some areas," he said. "But really, development is just now starting to take place in those areas."

As Pasco's county seat and a hub to the rural surrounding area, Dade City has a lot of government offices, churches and schools in its limits, as well as a business district. None of those adds to the population, Drymon said.

The city in recent years has talked of annexing areas to the north, which includes a large Hispanic population, but commissioners have wrestled with how to include more residents in unincorporated areas that will need costly infrastructure improvements such as road paving.

Nevertheless, Coffey predicted the Hispanic boom is far from finished.

"I think this area will continue to draw more and more Hispanic people," she said.

- Staff writer Chase Squires contributed to this report.

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