An image of growing diversity
Oct 9 – It was joked that a century ago here around the Columbia River estuary, racial diversity consisted of whiter shades of pallor – bickering Scandinavian tribes held in check by Americans native born and of British descent.
This north-Eurocentric vision has always overshadowed a more interesting dynamic in which many Chinook-Clatsop forged new paths to survival and success. Some Chinese, Japanese and Filipino migrant canner workers have taken root. Fishing, logging, and international trade have brought infusions from other people around the world.
Over the past two or three decades, the big story here and elsewhere is the growing presence of Hispanic residents. In the 2020 census, it is also worth noting those who adopt two or more racial components. In both of these cases, there are compelling observations to be made about Clatsop and Pacific counties, which together form the increasingly unified centerpiece of lower Columbia’s work, housing, and culture.
– Both counties had an official Hispanic population of 6,044 in 2020, a gain of about 1,500 and 34% more than 10 years earlier. If they all lived in one place, Hispanics would be the fourth largest city in the Columbia Estuary, after Astoria and Seaside and almost on par with Warrenton.
– There were 5,554 people who said they were MÃ©tis in both counties in 2020, more than triple from a decade earlier. Although some have moved here in the past 10 years, the majority are long-term residents who don’t believe that a complicated genealogy should be a source of shame – a remarkable and welcome reform from decades ago. It should be noted that many geneticists are now questioning the very concept of race, finding virtually no difference between all humans at the most basic level.
– Our region is definitely diversifying – but while our burgeoning Hispanic population is worth noting, our official results differ from our respective states and many other counties in the Pacific Northwest. In Pacific County, the 10-year Hispanic growth rate of about 31% compares to 40% in Washington as a whole. Clatsop’s 35.6% Hispanic expansion topped Oregon’s 30.8%, but was far behind neighboring Columbia County’s 54.5%. All of these figures can be underestimated, as undocumented residents often prefer to remain invisible to the attention of authorities.
âAn examination of the finer details of the 2020 census reveals huge variations in how diversity evolves within counties. Availability of housing, proximity to work and a range of other factors influence where we all live.
Two census tracts on the Long Beach Peninsula – the northernmost third and a segment between Long Beach and Klipsan Beach – each experienced 10-year Hispanic population growth rates of over 90%. Only Ocean Park and Nahcotta have seen a decline in the Hispanic population – although it should be noted that their overall Hispanic numbers remained relatively low in 2020 and 2010.
In Clatsop County, the Hispanic population has declined in two of 11 census tracts – eastern Astoria and the southwestern quadrant of the county. Growth rates in the other nine were as high as 100% in census tract 9506 – the area just inland of the Clatsop Plains.
– In both counties, only South Bend has a Hispanic population component of just over 20%. South Bend is also the most racially diverse community in our area, with an overall minority population of 27.4%. Seaside comes close with a Hispanic population of around 17% and an overall minority share of around 26%. Despite the diversification, Pacific County remains at 79.6% non-Hispanic white and Clatsop at 81.6%. The respective percentages in Washington and Oregon are 63.8 and 71.7. The United States has a non-Hispanic white population of 57.8%, up from 60.4% in 2010.
âBy numbers, the communities in our region with the most Hispanic residents are Seaside (815), Census Tract Raymond (612) and Warrenton-Hammond (469).
Some may read all these numbers on the differences and regret that our nation is not more focused on unity. Overcoming any real or perceived divisions and working together towards a future that works well for all Americans should indeed be a top priority for each of us. Part of achieving this goal is to better understand who we are.
Just as we now celebrate the historic ethnic and racial components of our region with events such as the Scandinavian Summer Solstice Festival in Astoria and the Finno-American Folk Festival in Naselle, our vibrant and resilient Hispanic heritage deserves its own. We are fortunate to have as neighbors a wide range of Mexicans, Central America and maybe even a few South Americans. They are an integral part of our economic success and bring with them a host of worthy traditions and delicious culinary specialties.
Diversity, grounded in a deep sense of underlying national pride and unity, remains key to America’s past and future.