While NH is not exactly known for its diversity, that is slowly changing. Ethnic minorities made up nearly 70 percent of the population growth in the Manchester-Nashua metro area between 2000 and 2007.
New Hampshire's Latino population continues to grow, and Latinos on the Move New England, a Manchester-based networking group, is striving to "bridge the gap between the Hispanic community and the business professionals in the New England area." The two-year-old group has more than 200 members, both individuals and businesses, from Grafton County in NH to Providence, R.I.
"We all live here so we need to embrace our different cultural backgrounds so we can appreciate, respect and understand each other's ways," says Robert Santiago, the former director of membership for the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce and founder of the group.
The group holds monthly networking meetings and has a weekly television show on Manchester Community Television featuring Latino residents and businesses. It also holds a number of community events from Salsa dancing lessons to free health fairs and is partnering with Straight A Academy, a Bedford private school, to provide internships, education and mentors to help Manchester students who have dropped out of school make some money while earning a GED. For veterans, the group is working to publicize the role Latino veterans have played both in overseas battles and in local businesses and communities.
Membership is $75 a year, with reduced rates available to those unable to pay, and children are invited to all networking meetings if their parents can't make other arrangements. Membership is open to people of all nationalities, with the aim of building camaraderie and increasing exposure for businesses at a low cost. "All you ever see about Hispanic people on TV is negative things," Santiago says. "You have to step up and say we're not all that way. I want to see: one, qualified minorities, two, who are doing a good job and three, who are positioning themselves to take advantage of available opportunities."
For more information, visit www.latinosonthemovene.com.