If it weren't for the immigration of Mexicans to South Philadelphia over the past 10 years — as well as the equally recent immigrants from Asia — the Philadelphia neighborhood that starts on South Street might have become yet another decrepit area of the city. Abandoned houses and shut-down businesses would have proliferated as the customer base gradually moved out of the neighborhood, populated in one point by the bustling Italian immigration of the 19th and 20th century.

This is the 21st century and this is just a tiny example of how Philadelphia has already been transformed by the presence of hard-working Latino immigrants coming not only from south of the border but, also, not surprisingly, from places like New York City.

Most of the Latino population growth (4.5.5 percent in Philadelphia alone, and 82.6 percent across the state) today comes from births, not from foreign immigration, though, and this community is quietly but surely injecting its sweat, its culture and its dollars into the fabric of our city. All for the better.

With the help of public officials like Jewell Williams this process can be accelerated to improve the quality of life in our city.

Take, for example, the famous Italian Market, saved from losing ground by dozens of entrepreneurs of Mexican descent who took over the empty businesses and established themselves there with their own array of unique goods and services.It has became a Latino market, southern version, different from the mostly Puerto Rican Northern version.

Paloma Restaurant, for example, a sophisticated Mexican restaurant long established in the Northeast, moved last year to South Philly, where more middle-class neighbors will surely favor the growth of the business.

Along with the restaurant, the tortilla seller, the bike shop, the baker and the butcher opened up their businesses up and down 9th Street, where the former Italian Market has taken on a decidedly Mexican flavor.

Sheriff Jewell Williams has opened the door so that more Latinos can get established in our neighborhoods in transition; contribute to bring them back from decay; and add, with the property and wage taxes the new owners eventually pay, to the fiscal health of our city.

The Office of the Sheriff, with the help of Deputy Sheriff Ana Sostre, has been supportive of AL DIA's efforts to open the public auctions of repossessed houses to all Latinos in the city.

Through a series of seminars, one of which took place the past week, Latinos now have direct access to the information and can become knowlegeable enough to participate in the complex process of acquiring houses at the auctions that take place two or three times a month in our city.

Don't miss out on the seminars and auctions that are coming up!

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