Latinos in the Mohawk Valley

Latinos in the Mohawk Valley

Hispanic Americans

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According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Spanish speakers in Oneida County, NY has grown from 1,271 in 1970 to 7,940 in 2010.  The 2010 Census counts 10,819 Hispanics in Oneida County; and of the 62,235 inhabitants in Utica, 10.5 % are Hispanic.

Hispanics have lived in the Mohawk Valley since the 1800s. The numbers began to grow in the early 20th century with the arrival of Spaniards, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans who worked on the canal, railroads and local factories.  The community grew even more rapidly after World War II as many Puerto Ricans  from New York City and the Island came to work in the textile factories and slaughterhouses. The local Hispanic community is currently 60 % Puerto Rican and 11 % Dominican.  The former has constituted the largest group of Hispanics for decades and the latter is one of the fastest growing groups in the county. 

There have been many attempts to organize the various Latino groups in the Upper Mohawk Valley, including the Hispanic American Action League in the 70s, the Latin American Society for Togetherness (L.A.S.T.) in the 80s, Hispanos Unidos in the 90s, and the current organization, the Mohawk Valley Latino Association (MVLA), founded in 2003. The MVLA, under the direction of Sonia Martínez and Anthony Colón, organized the 2011 Latino Upstate Summit, and regularly sponsors a yearly Hispanic Heritage Festival, an annual dinner-dance gala, a local children's dance group Ritmo caribeño, and a boy scout troop. In the past, the MVLA sponsored a G.E.D. and citizenship class in Spanish.

 Latinos have established upwards of forty businesses in the area, including restaurants, barber shops, beauty salons, a nightclub, a Karate school, insurance agencies, and an automotive repair shop. St. John's Catholic Church has offered a weekly mass in Spanish since the late 1960s, and several other Christian Churches in the city also have services in Spanish. Hispanics have taken leadership roles in the community as their presence becomes more and more visible.  Antonia Cardona's novel Te veo luego (2009) recounts, in part, her experiences in Utica in the 60s and 70s.

For information about the Spanish spoken in Utica please click here.


The book Diary of a small Hispanic Community (2017) summarizes the story of the Utica Latinos.

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Juan A. Thomas, Ph.D.

Juan A. Thomas, Ph.D.


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