The past three years, Sarasota has been ranked in the top ten on the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Places to Live list, this year moving up to No. 5. Perhaps that spotlight is partly responsible for the influx of residents. Whatever the case, our population is growing overall, and one demographic is outpacing the rest in growth: our Latinx population, which has grown from 50,000 to about 150,000 people in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties since 2000.
With the rising Latino population comes an increase in Latino influence that has invigorated our community—the vibrant presence of Latin American culture, music, arts, and cuisine has become even more deeply woven into our community as points of pride and celebration. This increasingly diverse demographic infuses exuberance into this region, skewing our population younger—in 2023, nearly 30 percent of all students enrolled in Sarasota and Manatee county public schools was Latin American. A growing youthful population generates a greater sense of possibility.
There are challenges that face some of our Spanish speaking neighbors, though, primarily attaining prosperity and building social mobility. In our philanthropic work, we are focused on long-range aspirations so that generations that follow us will have greater opportunities to thrive. What we do today matters for years to come.
Our foundation has been steadily investing in 2Gen programs that support families of all backgrounds to access the abundant opportunities available in our community. This has helped connect our hardworking, aspirational neighbors with career opportunities in high-demand fields like healthcare and construction management.
With hope for today and aspirations for the future, we have proudly supported UnidosNow’s Parent Leadership Program, which nurtures strong parents through skills development, community involvement, and other opportunities that boost parents’ integration in the community, opening doors for educational and occupational opportunities and social connections.
At the same time, keeping traditions alive and honoring heritage help to create a joyful and connected life. Our community offers many programs, events, and spaces for everybody to experience Latin culture, and for our Latinx neighbors to remain connected to their origins, including free education and arts programs at CreArte Latino Cultural Center, which stages Spanish-language plays, offers Spanish and English classes, and hosts cultural events. The Bay, the waterfront park that celebrates its one-year anniversary this month, also hosts events that celebrate and expand the imprint of our Latin community, including free bilingual yoga classes and ¡Bailando! At the Bay, a Latino dance party coming up on Oct. 18. These events and programs are accessible to all, and the exchange of cultural traditions is becoming a prominent asset of our community.
I’m proud to live in a community that’s ripe with different cultural connections, one that recognizes the worthy contributions each of us brings to our friends and neighbors. As this region continues to grow, I’m excited to witness its dynamic change, bringing fresh possibilities for our future.
I’m curious: how do you celebrate the multicultural nature of our community?