HAS CHULA VISTA BECOME “AMERICA’S FINEST CITY” FOR LATINOS?

About 14 months ago, hispanichorizons.com posted a story on “Where Latinos Assimilate” … In other words, where folks best mix in with other ethnic groups in mainstream America. Traditionally, the attraction has been the big cities, where jobs, lower rent and public transportation have long been positive advantages. Not so much anymore.

Folks who flocked to Los Angeles are now moving further inland to San Bernardino and Riverside, or further south to Downey. Residents of culturally diverse Houston are heading for nearby towns like Sugarland or The Woodlands. North Las Vegas, with its numerous parks and family friendly atmosphere, is a nice alternative to life in Sin City. Why are Hispanics now settling in the suburbs? Because crime is lower, rentals are more spacious, it’s actually possible to buy a house and many new job opportunities, especially in the tech industry,

San Diego, now the second largest city in California, is a Navy town with a tourist-based economy that has been devastated by the coronavirus. The outgoing mayor Kevin Faulconer estimates income losses to exceed $300 million. That being said, “America’s Finest City” will recover. It’s beaches, mountains, desert, five star hotels and swanky restaurants will thrive again by mid summer. Meanwhile, San Diego’s little brother to the south, Chula Vista, continues to take baby steps toward the future. While there is no actual beach, the city boasts a modern marina, adjacent park plus a nature reserve, and the island of Coronado is right across the bay. Within the city limits are 52.2 square miles of new housing and open space. Three major freeways criss-cross to connect neighborhoods to the north, south, east and west, in addition to the convenient San Diego Trolley. Could Chula Vista be one of America’s finest cities for Latinos? It’s definitely a subject worth exploring.

Chula Vista, with a population of about 275,000, is only minutes from the international border and its residents are 58 % Hispanic…a majority but with a healthy mixture of other ethnic groups and religious faiths. Eastlake is upscale with its sprawling properties and gated communities, many with armed guards. That being said, the city has a strong middle class with only small pockets of crime, primarily on the city’s southern outskirts. The Sweetwater Union School District, while constantly over budget, has quality K-12 faculty throughout the system. Southwestern College is a huge community institution with feeder transfer programs to San Diego State and UCSD, and has a strong sports program for both men and women.

I guess what I like most about Chula Vista is its family friendly ambiente. There are three major shopping malls…Plaza Bonita, Chula Vista Center near Broadway and H Street, plus a new cluster of spots in the Otay Ranch area. But it’s always fun to take a stroll along Third Avenue in the historic downtown area, where you can window shop or grab a bite to eat, albeit probably to go until the pandemic tapers off. Without a doubt, this is a city where Mexican and Italian cuisine can’t be beat.

Money is tight right now and many families are grieving over a parent or relative who have passed from the virus. But when we all recover, Chula Vista will still be around, slowly marching ahead and sending a warm greeting of Benvenidos! It just might be a place where you’d like to hang out for a while.

About Steve Randel

Former amateur baseball scout in Latin America and current high school coach. International sports and current events journalist for 42 years.

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