Texas City is looking more like the rest of Texas these days.

With a population increase from 45,099 in 2010 to 47,262 in 2017, the bulk of that growth can be counted in the Hispanic community.

Hispanic people made up 27 percent of Texas City’s population in 2010 and 29.9 percent in 2017, surpassing African Americans as the city’s largest minority group. Hispanics surpassed African Americans nationally during that same time frame.

In Texas City, the African-American population declined between 2010 and 2017 from 30.8 percent to 28 percent.

The state of Texas has clocked strong growth in the Hispanic population, coupled with slow growth among whites since 2010, setting the Hispanic community on its way to becoming a plurality of the state’s population by 2022 if the trend continues, according to the Texas state demographer and population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Texas has gained almost four times as many Hispanic residents as white residents since 2010, with population growth of Hispanic communities occurring in all but a few Texas counties.

What that means for Texas City is a steady change in the availability and presence of services for Spanish-speaking citizens, a demand for more Hispanics in public sector jobs, more Hispanic-owned businesses and an increasingly Hispanic presence in churches and cultural institutions, community leaders said.

Traditionally, Hispanics in the United States overwhelmingly identify as Christians with more than 70 percent associated with the Catholic Church. That is changing around the country, with more second- and third-generation Hispanics joining evangelical Protestant churches, according to the Notre Dame Center for the Study of Latino Religion.

Liz De La Garza, a resident of Texas City since she was a young child and former head of the League of United Latin American Citizens Council 255 in Texas City, sees that trend in her hometown as well.

“You see a lot more Hispanic Christian and Pentecostal churches, small Spanish-speaking congregations with sermons in Spanish,” De La Garza said.

Larger, more traditional Protestant churches in Texas City are more likely now to have a Hispanic outreach, De La Garza said, offering services in Spanish to attract new worshipers.

De La Garza runs a day care business in Texas City and has seen demographic changes in her own business with an increase in the number of Hispanic families seeking day care services.

“I’ve run a day care business for 34 years,” she said. “We see many more Hispanic children in day care now. At the beginning, the majority was Anglo, then there were a majority of African Americans and now we see a huge increase in Hispanic families.”

That means more children in Texas City public schools who come from primarily Spanish-speaking or bilingual households, a population increase the district has actively responded to over the years, said Melissa Tortorici, spokeswoman for the Texas City Independent School District.

“We offer bilingual programs and English as a Second Language programs, and we continue making adjustments as the population grows,” Tortorici said.

The district had 45 teachers identifying as Hispanic in 2008 and now has 72, reflecting both the growth of the Hispanic population in public schools and the district’s annexation of the La Marque Independent School District during the 2016-17 school year.

Higher education in Texas City is influenced by growth in the Hispanic population as well.

At College of the Mainland, between 2011-12 and 2017-18, students who were residents of Texas City enrolled in for-credit courses at the college switched from a plurality of whites to a plurality of Hispanic students.

College of the Mainland is categorized as a Hispanic Serving Institution, qualifying it for federal Title V funds. To meet that designation, 25 percent of the school’s total enrollment must be Hispanic students.

The school’s Hispanic population is now well more than 25 percent, said Deborah Fregia, Title V director at College of the Mainland.

“The money from the federal government is intended to improve programs and because we have a large number of Hispanic students, a significant portion of our funding goes to improving their college experience,” Fregia said.

Program objectives are to increase enrollment, retention and graduation rates among Hispanic students.

College of the Mainland is in the fourth year of a five-year Title V grant. Among programs designed to support Hispanic students is one for minority males, which supports Hispanic male students in things like interviewing and other skills that might enhance their college experience and assist them when they enter the work force.

Jobs for Spanish speakers in the public sector are on the rise, including in public health. The Galveston County Health District and its Coastal Health and Wellness clinic in Texas City have responded to the city’s growing Hispanic population in a number of ways.

“We’ve had a notable increase in Hispanic clients this year compared to last year at Coastal Health and Wellness,” said Ashley Tompkins, spokeswoman for the Galveston County Health District.

The clinic offers literature, applications and forms in both English and Spanish and has increased the number of bilingual staffers to better serve the community, but not all services have registered increases in Hispanic clientele.

“The health district has noticed an increase in Hispanic clients taking advantage of some services offered, primarily our HIV-STD and immunization programs,” Tompkins said.

“That being said, the Women Infants and Children program, better known as WIC, is actually seeing a decrease in Hispanic-Latino clients, partially due to immigration status and fear of obtaining services from federal programs.”

The growth of Texas City’s Hispanic population has been steady over the years, and Hispanic-owned businesses have become commonplace. When she was a kid, there was only one Mexican restaurant in town that wasn’t authentically Mexican but Tex-Mex, Liz De La Garza said. Now all major shopping areas are dotted with Hispanic-owned eateries and Texas City has its own Mexican supermarket, just like most of the rest of Texas. 

Kathryn Eastburn: 409-683-5257; kathryn.eastburn@galvnews.com.

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