the school backyard, and we were supposed to go there or we were supposed to
run to the nearest church," Arellano said.
In 1989, when Arellano was 13, her parents fled Nicaragua, taking Arellano and her brother to the U.S. They eventually became U.S. citizens under the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act. Among its provisions, NACARA gives a path to legal residency and citizenship to certain applicants who fled the war.
Arellano landed in Brooklyn, N.Y., as a teenager, graduated from high school and got an undergraduate degree in psychology at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y. In 2001, she made the move from New York to be with her parents, she said. Her father was working in construction in Forsyth.
For the past seven years, Arellano has been working at the county's Department of Social Services.
"I like stability. I like knowing what I'm going to be doing today," Arellano said.
"I practically have my life set here. I don't feel like I belong in Nicaragua anymore. Besides, there, it would be hard to find a job. I'd have to start over. Here, I live a very family-oriented life. I have kids in high school and elementary. On the weekends, I go to church and spend time with them," she said.
Influence of disasters
The civil war in Nicaragua is just one example of a difficult situation that drove migration to the U.S.
Hurricane Mitch in 1998 is another example. The hurricane displaced thousands of families in Honduras and other Central American countries and led to a mass migration of Hispanics to the U.S.
From Cuba, people have crossed the Straits of Florida for decades on homemade rafts to get away from a government that has been ruled by Fidel Castro or his brother, Raul, since 1959. People of Cuban descent now make up about one-third of the Hispanic population in Florida.
Just as the Great Famine pushed a large wave of Irish immigrants to the U.S., natural and man-made disasters in Latin America have been one of the drivers of Hispanic migration, according to Peter Siavelis, a professor of political science and the director of the Latin American and Latino Studies Program at Wake Forest University.
"It's a compounding of calamities," Siavelis said. "There may be a civil war and then a hurricane. Meanwhile, people are working hard to amass their resources but are continually stymied, so they're going to look elsewhere for opportunities."
A significant majority of the estimated 48,000 Hispanics in Forsyth have cultural ties to Mexico. In fact, the number of people of Mexican descent doubled from about 14,000 to more than 28,000 between 2000 and 2010, according to the latest Census Bureau statistics.
If calamities indeed drive migration, then the influx of people from Mexico will not likely whither anytime soon. The Attorney General's Office in Mexico said recently that nearly 48,000 people have died in Mexico's drug war since December 2006.
"These (demographic) trends have been going on for years," Richardson said. "Maybe it's time for us to step back and ask, 'What does it mean for Forsyth? What are the challenges? What are the opportunities?' "
Adding another twist to Forsyth's projected demographic path is the expected emergence of second- and third-generation Hispanics. The coming wave will be pushed just as much by births here as it will be by migration, according to the Winston-Salem State study.
Since 2002, migration and local births were nearly neck-in-neck in fueling Hispanic population growth in Forsyth County. In 2010, for example, there were 2,894 new Hispanic residents. Of those, 1,444 moved to the county and 1,453 were born here, the study says.
Those statistics are supported by numbers provided by the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, where younger Hispanics make up nearly the same share of the student population as black students.
This school year, 43.6 percent of the students are white, 29.2 percent are black, 20.6 percent are Hispanic, 4.0 percent are multiracial, 2.3 percent are Asian, and less than 1 percent are American Indian or Native Hawaiians/Pacific. Whites dropped below 50 percent of enrollment several years ago.
"We're already seeing the population changes, as our school population is more diverse than the county population," said Theo Helm, a school spokesman.
Again, the numbers reflect Arellano's family. Two of Arellano's children, ages 14 and 7, attend public school in Forsyth. They're bilingual. And Arellano's 7-month-old daughter will be, too.
"It's important that they learn both. It'll open more opportunities for them," she said.
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