With the finding of kidnapped victims Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight, it seems as though the spotlight has been placed on Ohio and the Latino community in Cleveland, where alleged captor Ariel Castro hid his victims right under everyone's noses.
According to 2010 U.S. Census data, the growth of the Latino population in Cleveland and the neighboring town of Lorain grew dramatically over the last ten years. In Cleveland alone the Hispanic community increased by 13.8 percent, in Lorain by 12.0 percent.
Such increases are partly the product of a few local nonprofit organizations whose mission is to attract Latinos to Ohio.
Global Cleveland, a nonprofit that focuses on increasing the population in Northeast Ohio, developed a campaign called “Bienvenidos” in October of last year, which recruits Puerto Ricans by holding job fairs in the island and showing its residents how much Ohio, particularly Cleveland and Lorain, have to offer.
“We have a very strong Puerto Rican community,” Elizabeth Hijar, a consultant at Global Initiative told Fox News Latino.
Hijar added that the recruitment initiatives have done so well that she has even seen a spike within the Dominican and Mexican communities.
“Some Dominicans who have moved to Puerto Rico then end up moving to Cleveland,” she said.
Hijar also said that many Puerto Ricans who thrive in Cleveland are not necessarily only from the island, but they are second and third generation boricuas looking to explore employment opportunities.
“Historically, Puerto Ricans came to Cleveland and Lorain after World War II,” said Hijar. “They came to work in areas like the auto factory.”
One of Hijar’s colleagues who also caters to the Latino population in Northeast Ohio is Victor Ruiz, Executive Director of Esperanza, a nonprofit social service agency that prides itself in promoting education among Hispanics.
Ruiz says the news that the kidnapped girls are alive and well inspired in him such “an overwhelming feeling of gratitude” to the community he serves.
He says that after speaking with a couple of parents in the area, many of them were moved with Monday’s breaking news.
“Parents were saying 'that could have been my children!'” he told FNL. “A lot of us were talking today and we saw that the family and friends [of the victims] never gave up hope,” he added.
“That is really inspiring us.”
Ruiz, 36, thinks that the news sends a message of awareness to the Latino community.
“I hope this encourages people to take care of each other,” he continued. “People don’t take care of their neighbors like they used to. Look out for the children. Be more vigilant.”