In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we will be highlighting a few records from the State Archives regarding Hispanic populations, a growing proportion of North Carolina’s residents. The United States first began celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month in 1988, a development which coincided with a marked increase in the Latino population in North Carolina. To be sure, there were residents of Hispanic heritage in the state long before then, dating back to interactions with Spanish colonies and the Spanish government in the eighteenth century, and influxes of immigrants in subsequent centuries. The population has grown more rapidly since the 1980s, initially fueled by migrants coming for seasonal farm work. Many came from Mexico and Central America, but the majority moved to North Carolina from other states in the US. Three decades later, they are the fastest growing minority group in North Carolina, and more Latinos have been born in the state than immigrated. In 2010, the Hispanic population was approximately 800,000 or 8.4% of the state’s population.
The State Archives and the State Library of North Carolina have several collections which document the experiences of Hispanic residents. The Spanish Records are copies of eighteenth century colonial records from the Papeles de Cuba at the Archivo General de Indias, the Archivo General de Simanacas, and the Archivo Historico Nacional and Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid that pertain to the southeastern colonies and North Carolina, documenting the state’s early history from the perspective of the Spanish colonial government. The Alien Registration and Naturalization Records contain county records relating to the naturalization of foreign-born citizens, including Hispanic immigrants, and often include pictures, country of origin, family names, and profession. They provide a snapshot into the lives of many people who chose to make North Carolina their home in the first half of the twentieth century, such as Leopoldo Riloba y Ruiloba, a cotton mill worker who came from Havana, Cuba to Alamance County in 1940 with his four children.
For more recent information, modern governors’ records include proclamations and executive orders. In 1998, Governor Jim Hunt issued Executive Order 136 to create the Governor’s Advisory Council on Hispanic/Latino Affairs. He also started the Office of Hispanic/Latino Affairs to coordinate state programs to serve the Latino community, including migrant health, cultural diversity, community forums, and domestic violence training. Records from Governors Easley and Purdue include proclamations to observe Hispanic Heritage Month and documentation of the Office of Hispanic/Latino Affairs. In 2013, under Governor Pat McCrory, the office of Hispanic/Latino affairs was absorbed into the Community and Constituent Affairs Office, which serves as the point of contact for all constituents.
Other publications show state agencies’ desires to tailor their services to North Carolina’s changing constituency. For example, in 2001 the Department of Labor created a volunteer Hispanic Task Force to “identify the unique safety and health hazards that the state’s Hispanic population faces in the workplace and to determine what measures DOL could undertake to reduce fatalities and injuries among Hispanic workers.” In 2006, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety conducted a study to improve services to Hispanic residents, such as providing language assistance to individuals with limited fluency in English.
This is only a small sample of North Carolina records that point to the rich and interwoven stories of our state’s Hispanic heritage. You can explore our full digital collections here, or search finding aids and the online catalog to begin exploring non-digitized records. If you need assistance, our reference staff are happy to help! They can be reached by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What have you found out about Hispanic heritage in the state archives?
 “2001 Annual Report of the N.C. Department of Labor” (North Carolina Department of Labor, 2001), 10, http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p249901coll22/id/21346/rec/6.
 Keith Dowd and Erin Collins, “New North Carolinians: Doing Justice for All in the Criminal Justice System: Providing Services to a Rising Hispanic and Latino Population in North Carolina” (North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission and Criminal Justice Analysis Center, 2006), 22, http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p249901coll22/id/9522/rec/1.