Pasadena, ever the chameleon, is undergoing its most profound shift to date as the old Anglo culture gives way to a new and growing Hispanic majority.
Though the trend started decades ago, Hispanics' majority status was first recorded in the 2000 Census. Mostly new immigrant families with children, they are filling the schools, propelling the economy and transforming the landscape.
Now nearly 60 percent Hispanic, Pasadena was chosen as the pilot site for H-E-B's pioneering Mi Tienda, a supermarket directly aimed at Spanish speakers. The old Elks Lodge has become El Palacio Real for quinceaneras and other galas.
The Denver-based Cinema Latina chain's first theater in Texas offers up U.S. blockbusters dubbed or subtitled in Spanish and chili on the popcorn. The local Wal-Mart has made room for an in-store health care clinic called Mi Acceso Soludable, or My Healthy Access.
St. Pius Catholic Church rubs shoulders with Templo Apostolico and other immigrant-favored evangelical congregations.
'Sort of like an incubator'
"Our area looks like what the rest of Texas someday will look like," says Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia, whose district includes Pasadena.
"We're sort of like an incubator. What works for us today in our area will work in the rest of Texas in the future."
There's one place where the changing face of Pasadena has not caught up with the established reality:
Hispanics, however, haven't similarly penetrated the body politic.
Garcia has represented Pasadena on Commissioners Court since January 2003. But for decades, the Precinct 2 office was held by Jim Fonteno and, before him, John Ray Harrison, who was quintessential "old Pasadena." His daughter, Nikki Harrison Caffee, is Garcia's Pasadena liaison.
Mayor John Manlove, who was adopted as a baby by white parents, is half-Hispanic. But the City Council always has been all white and mainly male.
"You will see that changing. There really haven't been any viable Hispanic candidates, but there will be. It's just a matter of time," Manlove says.
"If there is any group that has a real hold on the American dream, it's Hispanics. They see the value of family; they have a strong work ethnic; and they really are the hardest workers around. Most of our area has embraced the change."
I point this out not just to make snarky comments but also to note that Pasadena is represented in the State House by one Robert Talton, who (let's face it) is not exactly an accurate reflection of the new Pasadena. Far as I'm concerned, he's a Talmadge Heflin waiting to happen. It's a matter of finding the right candidate and giving that person sufficient support. I see no reason why that can't happen in 2008.Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 25, 2007 to Elsewhere in Houston