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Fences work both ways
Celebration highlights cultural diversity
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A growing segment of Great Bend’s population observed a celebration Saturday, one dedicated to its culture. There was a parade, and traditional music, dancing and food.
The sounds and smells wafted over the Barton County Courthouse Square and spread throughout the downtown. It marked Great Bend’s 20th-annual Cinco de Mayo observance, an opportunity for the local Hispanic community to fete its heritage and share it with the community as a whole.  
In Spanish, Cinco de Mayo means “Fifth of May.” In Mexico, it marks Mexico’s victory over an invading French army in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1856. It has blossomed into a cultural holiday in the U.S.
Why is this relevant?
First, this is a growing segment of our society. According to the United States Census Bureau’s most recent figures collected in 2010, those reporting Hispanic or Latino origins was 10.5 percent for Kansas, compared to 16.3 percent nationwide.
However, let’s dig into those numbers a little deeper. When it comes to Barton County, the percentage of Hispanics is 13.3 percent, higher than the state average. Looking closer, the USCB reports Great Bend’s Hispanic population at 19.9 percent. That’s higher than the national average.
When it comes to foreign-born residents, the figure is 12.7 percent nationally, 6.3 in Kansas, 6.4 in Barton County and 9.7 in Great Bend.
Second, the swelling Hispanic population aside, this event gives everyone, regardless of their nationality or lineage, a chance to come downtown and enjoy the day. They might even learn something about their new neighbors along the way.
Like it or not, our communities are changing. Fences may keep people out, but they may keep new ideas out as well. Open borders or not, we must all keep open minds.