BOISE -- According to census data compiled by the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs, the Hispanic population in Idaho is growing faster than the general population. Hispanics are Idaho's largest minority group, and they're become an increasingly integrated part of life in Idaho.
When she was just 8-years old, Norma and her family left their home in Mexico to come to Idaho.
"My dad used to be an immigrant. They used to work. But he was just tired of not seeing his children grow, and so he brought us here," said Norma.
She came to the U.S. not speaking any English. Her family worked in agriculture in Glenns Ferry. She has seen the Hispanic community grow in Idaho since she was a kid.
"I guess what I'm asking the community is take a good look around you," she said. "The majority of them that are here, they're here because they're wanting a better life."
U.S. Census data shows from 2000 to 2010, Idaho's non-Hispanic population only increased by 17 percent. During the same ten years, Idaho's Hispanic population increased by about 73 percent.
In that number are people like Tomasa Rosales, who moved to the U.S. in 2000.
"It was a necessity," said Rosales. "We have a tremendous necessity. We needed to work, and so we decided to come over here."
Rosales stayed in Idaho and is raising her three kids here.
DATA: HISPANIC POPULATION IS YOUNG AND GROWING
We found census data showing Idaho's Hispanic population is young and growing. More than 45 percent of Idaho's Hispanic population is 19-years-old or younger, and about 28 percent of non-Hispanics are younger than 19.
Hispanic enrollment in public schools is also increasing, and fewer and fewer are dropping out of high school. During the 2000-2001 school year, about 8 percent of Hispanics dropped out of grades 9-12. During the 2009-2010 school year, that went down to only 1.72 percent.
According to data from the University of Idaho, these nine school districts would have lost enrollment if it had not been for increased enrollment by Hispanic students: Caldwell, Blackfoot, Jerome Joint, Blaine County, Preston Joint, Filer, Parma, Shoshone Joint, and Richfield.
MEXICAN CONSULATE EVIDENCE OF GROWTH
The growing Hispanic community is why Mexico opened its first Idaho consulate in 2008. The Office of the Mexican Consulate in Boise helps Mexicans with things like government paperwork, finding health care providers, and assisting in legal matters.
"The closest consulate that provided services to the Idaho state -- to the Mexican community living in the state of Idaho -- was at the time Salt Lake City," said Ricardo Pineda, the Mexican Consul in Boise.
Pineda said the Boise consulate serves about 240,000 Mexicans in Idaho, Montana, Northern Nevada, and Eastern Oregon. When Pineda came to Boise from the Mexican Consulate in San Diego, he was surprised by the history of Mexicans in Idaho.
"Amazingly entangled and integrated population," said Pineda. "It was a total discovery for us to really know that the Mexican population was not a new population here in Idaho, I mean, a new wave of incoming population. They have been over here since the very beginning, for 150 years."
More than 25 percent of the state's Hispanic population lives in Canyon County. Ada County has the second highest percentage of Hispanics in the state at about 16 percent. Pineda says the Hispanic community is not only growing, but thriving.
A GROWING ECONOMIC INTEREST
"The purchasing power of the Hispanic community has grown really fast, to the point where today, the Hispanic community has seven percent of this purchasing power," Pineda told KTVB. "But not only that, the number of businesses and the growing of those businesses."
Hispanics are also becoming better represented in government. Since 2009, the number of Idaho Hispanic elected officials has more than doubled, from 9 to 20. That includes people like U.S. Representative Raul Labrador and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna.
"And that is a fact which that means in the years to come, we are going to have a more participating community, a more well-represented community, in every area and field," said Pineda.
Pineda said 70 percent of state's Hispanic population was born and raised in the U.S.
"I think a lot of people, they really generalize us. They really don't take a look of how big of a part we play in the community," said Norma.