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Embracing Latino growth in the Poconos

According to the U.S. Census, Monroe County has the third-largest Hispanic and Latino population in the state.

STROUDSBURG, Pa. — Flags of Latin America line Main Street in downtown Stroudsburg to highlight Hispanic Heritage Month and represent the cultures and people in our community.

"We try to integrate our folks with their aspirations into the life of this county, and in doing this, we want to preserve our cultural identity and be proud of it and share it with everyone who wants to listen," said Anthony Stevens-Arroyo, secretary of the Federation of Latinos for Education about the Cultures of Hispanic America (FLECHA).

Stevens-Arroyo says the influx of Latinos started in the 1970s when resorts began operating year-round.

"Making beds and cleaning things and working in kitchens and serving. The ready population was people who were in New York who had immigrated," said Stevens-Arroyo. "They have hired out a place called Mount Airy Lodge, and they had the first nucleus of people from a foreign country, in this case, Latin America."

Since then, Arroyo says more have moved to the county from New York and New Jersey in search of a better life.

According to the U.S. Census, the Hispanic or Latino population in Monroe County is 31,000 people, nearly 20 percent of the county.

"The Poconos represented a place where people of modest means could come, buy a house, and bring their families up in relative peace and quiet," Arroyo said.

Adria Laboy is the president of FLECHA. Laboy's father and Arroyo, along with a few others, started it ten years because of a growing need they saw in the community.

"To continue educating the Latino and Hispanic community in Monroe County. We see that it continues to grow, and we need opportunities to not only connect with the community but also provide activities that are culturally appropriate for them," Laboy said.

Activities and events like the ninth annual Pocono Latin Fest taking place in October on the campus of East Stroudsburg University.

Soon, FLECHA hopes to have a cultural center where the Hispanic and Latino communities can go to get resources and assistance and build relationships.

"Here we all blend together, so what we do is we share. We make sure that we can share events, food, important days, and that we blend with the community that's already been here for years in the Poconos," said Christina Luna, FLECHA vice president.

They say they'll continue to spread a message of diversity for years to come.

The Pocono Latin Fest will take place on October 23 from noon to 7 p.m. on the campus of East Stroudsburg University.

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