September is national Hispanic Heritage month. The State Library is taking this opportunity to focus on the contributions Hispanics have made and continue to make to North Carolina.
Beginning in the 1990s, North Carolina has experienced a boom in its Hispanic population. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the state had the fifth largest growth rate of Hispanics in the nation from 2000-2006. Some of the population boom can be attributed to the overall economic growth that brought many people to the state in recent years. Although the largest segment of the Hispanic population has Mexican roots, there are also many residents from other Spanish-speaking Caribbean and Central and South American nations.
The recent influx of Hispanics does not mark the beginning of the Hispanic presence in the state. In fact, the Hispanic presence extends much further back into North Carolina’s history. In 1540, Hernando de Soto, a Spanish explorer and conquistador, traveled through the Appalachian mountains on his quest to find gold in North America.