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Hispanic Community Growing in Branson

BRANSON, Mo. -- Job growth in the construction, service and tourism industry is attracting a growing number of immigrants searching for prosperity.
BRANSON, Mo. – Job growth in the construction, service and tourism industry is attracting a growing number of immigrants searching for prosperity.

In Taney Co., the Spanish-speaking population has nearly doubled since the turn of the century. Immigrants like Manuel Fuentes, owner of Casa Fuentes on Hwy. 76, find jobs, found businesses and settle in the area.

“It’s a small community and a good place to raise a family,” Fuentes agreed. “This past summer has been the best we've had in 17 years.”

Jobs in Branson and a small town atmosphere could be the reason behind the county’s rapid growth. Spanish speakers now make up five percent of the county’s nearly 55 thousand people.

Many Hispanics find a community within church groups, especially Catholic congregations like Our Lady of the Lake. Sister Francine Koehler works at the church and oversees many of the services offered through the parish.

“Many [immigrants] are in the hospitality or the hotels,” Koehler explained. “It's the temporal, we have seasons and that's very difficult for them and some of them, during their off time, go back to their country.”

The church will host a Hispanic Heritage festival this weekend, complete with live music and dancers. One of the performers this weekend will be Samantha Barròn, a folk dancer who believes in the importance of preserving cultures.

“It's like a tradition,” she said. “We're here and we love it here. But we have our country, our cultures, traditions. And it's important for us to keep doing that.”

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