Linda Chavez

Most of these businesses are family affairs, with few employees. But more than 1,500 of the businesses nationwide employed 100 or more people, generating $42 billion in gross receipts. Nearly 30 percent of Hispanic-owned businesses were in construction, repair, maintenance or other personal services, while 36 percent were in retail or wholesale trade. The largest numbers of such businesses were concentrated in California and Texas, home to the biggest Mexican-American and Mexican immigrant populations. Not surprisingly, 44 percent of all Hispanic-owned businesses were run by those of Mexican origin. But New York experienced the fastest rate of growth, 57 percent, followed by Rhode Island and Georgia with 56 percent, and Nevada and South Carolina with 48 percent.

What could be more American than the dream of running your own business? Immigrants come here with the hope of making a better life for themselves and their families, but many aren't content simply to take home a paycheck. They want to build something for the future, something they can pass on to their children. Whether it's a Guatemalan starting a landscaping business, a Mexican setting up a home repair firm, or a Cuban opening an insurance company, the United States offers them opportunities they would never have enjoyed in their native countries.

Hispanic entrepreneurs are becoming an increasingly vital part of the economic engine that drives this nation. Hispanics aren't turning the U.S. into a Latin American outpost; they are being transformed into the quintessential American: the small and not-so-small businessman and woman.

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .

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