Charlotte’s Hispanic flavor: Immigrants becoming a more visible – and a more important – part of the city
By Sam Boykin Rita Sanders props open the front door with a big sign advertising a cell phone as she readies for another day of business. Latin Music Max, which Sanders opened in 2002, is tucked away in a small shopping center along South Boulevard, a corridor that over the years has become a hub for Hispanic businesses in Charlotte. The cluttered, dimly lit store is packed full of Latin American CDs, DVDs and other items like cosmetics, cologne, snacks and beer. It’s not much to look at, but for Sanders it represents years of hard work, sacrifice and a better life for her and her son. Sanders is one of tens of thousands of Hispanic immigrants who have arrived in Charlotte over the past decade. This population shift has drastically changed the cultural and business landscape of the city. From small business owners, construction workers, politicians, banking executives, corporate CEOs and social activists, Hispanics are an increasingly important and visible part of Charlotte. According to the U.S Census Bureau’s most recent figures, the Hispanic/Latino population in Mecklenburg County doubled to more than 88,000 between 2000 and 20007. This influx continues against the backdrop of growing public sentiment against illegal immigration.