In the past decade Daviess County has gone through quite a change. The county may be 91 percent Caucasian, but the number of Blacks (2.3%) and Hispanics (5.2%) is growing.
In Washington the numbers are more pronounced with Hispanics making up 13% of the population and Blacks 4.7%.
Because much of Mexico, Central and South America, where many of the community’s Hispanic population originated, are Catholic, Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church has become a place where the Hispanic experience is moving into the community.
“We have masses every Tuesday and Saturday in Spanish,” said Maria “Candy” Candelaria, director of Religious Vocations at Our Lady of Hope, who also works with the church’s Hispanic community. “We work on creating cultural events that we can use as teaching moments for the Hispanic members of the church to share their traditions with the greater church.”
One of those upcoming events, during Hispanic Heritage Month will include a special program with the school children on Oct. 31 dealing with the Day of the Dead celebration.
“That will be a special thing the kids are doing,” said Candelaria.
Candelaria, who has worked in several southern Indiana counties has praise for the way the Washington area has taken in its Latin American neighbors.
“I think this community puts out more of an effort to integrate people,” she said. “Hispanics just seem to be more welcome here.”
“I think we should take that statement as quite a compliment,” said Daviess County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Joe Morris. “They are adding to our prosperity. It is good to see a community within our community transforming things.”
Morris says the growing diversity within the county provides plenty of reasons to celebrate.
“There are a number of good Hispanic businesses that are doing well in our county,” said Morris. “Minority and ethnic entrepreneurship are driving the growth in our community in the trades, service and hospitality industry. It is a great time to celebrate our diversity. It makes us much more like the rest of nation and creates a better quality of place.”
Washington has a number of Hispanic owned restaurants and stores. One that has been around a long time is Tienda Mi Rancho in Washington’s west end.
“My father is known as Taco, and he was one of first Hispanics to move to Washington and he eventually opened his store,” said Edwin Revolorio. “He has been doing business here for more than 20 years and just this last year did a major expansion. The business draws people from all over southern Indiana and it has done pretty well.”
One place where Tienda Mi Rancho may be different from other stores is that it offers more than just groceries.
“There is usually some kind of celebration each month,” said Revolorio. “There may be different kinds of music. It becomes kind of a gathering place where people can socialize.”
That outreach to customers also comes from the addition of a small restaurant inside.
“The menu is limited to just a few things, but it may be a Mexican food one day, a Salvadoran the next, then a Guatemalan,” said Revolorio. “The idea is to provide people with a taste of home.”
He says that Washington has been good to his family and his business.
“Everyone has been good to us,” said Revolorio. “Washington is a good place.”
The Hispanic Heritage celebration will continue on October 30 with a special free presentation of “In the Heights” at 9:30 in the morning at the Indiana Theater.
Among the sponsors is Terri Kelso Insurance.
“I am really happy to be a part of that,” said Kelso. “It is great to celebrate the diversity of the community and this is a great way to bring the community together. Washington has become its own little melting pot and this is a good time to celebrate the joining of our communities.”