Gustavo Reveles Acosta, El Paso Times, September 23, 2008
The census’ American Community Survey figures for 2007 indicate that 74 percent of all residents in the El Paso metropolitan area spoke Spanish at home, even if they are fluent in English.
The numbers also say that one out of every five people living in the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California use mainly Spanish, and not English, at home.
The census indicates that 24 percent of the El Paso population speaks English only, and that fewer than 2,000 people said they speak a language other than English or Spanish at home.
Dennis Bixler-Márquez, a University of Texas at El Paso professor of multicultural education and the director of the Chicana/o Studies Program there, said he was not surprised to hear the numbers released by the census.
“Border communities like El Paso, by virtue of their proximity to the home land, will continue to have tremendous linguistic renewal,” he said. “People here, even those who have been in the country various generations, will retain their language much more than the Hispanic populations formed in the interior of the United States.”
Bixler-Márquez said the steady flow of new immigrants into the U.S. Southwest could also be responsible for the common use of Spanish and the widespread distribution of Spanish-language media, music, literature and even signage in the region.
The wide use of Spanish by people of El Paso has forced local governments, agencies and stores to publish most local notices in English and Spanish.
Aracely Lazcano, the spokeswoman for the county of El Paso, said it makes sense for her to write news releases and public notices in both languages.
Bixler-Márquez said only a slowing trend in immigration would stop the strong influence Spanish has over El Paso and the rest of the Southwest.