Many towns were preparing to close schools and businesses. Young white people were moving out to larger cities. Birth rates were declining. The work that was available was in meatpacking, farming, feedlots and oil fields. This is changing.
In the last decade, the Hispanic population in rural Kansas has increased by 54 percent. In the towns with the most Hispanic people, residents have the lowest average ages, the highest birth rates and the most stable school populations.
The changes in population are not always welcome. The cultures are different. The food is different. The language is different. However, many long time residents know that the future of their towns depend on growing populations who open businesses and send their children to school.
The mayor of one town said, “In the last five years, we have really seen that they are here, they are staying, they’re part of the community. We have kind of gotten used to each other.”
At the hospital in town, exactly half of the 102 babies born last year were Hispanic. In a sign of the future of the community, 13 babies were listed as having one white and one Hispanic parent.