Census: Osceola County sees explosive growth in Hispanic community

Hurricane Maria stirred tide of immigration to Central Florida

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Newly analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows Osceola County’s Hispanic community continues to see explosive growth.

News 6 compared Census data collected in 2010, broken down by race and ethnicity.

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According to that data, Osceola County saw an increase in population of 119,971 people over the 10-year period.

The data showed 88,943 of those new residents identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino, which is an increase of 73% compared to 2010.

The biggest jump in population came with those identifying as multi-racial, up 183% over 2010.

Signs of growth within the Hispanic community can be seen all over the county. Businesses, churches and even for sale signs are often bilingual.

“Tomato Express started in 1991 in St. Cloud. We started as a small produce stand,” CEO Stella Siracuza said.

Siracuza said her family-owned business is her second home, where she works with her brother, her mother and other members of her family.

“When we started in St. Cloud, there were zero Hispanic-owned stores or anything that offered that need,” she said.

She said Tomato Express, which is now located in Kissimmee, worked to fill that need. The store expanded from a 1,200 square foot produce stand to an 8,000 square foot grocery store.

Now, Siracuza has competition.

“Today, you have a Hispanic supermarket, practically at every corner. We found our niche in providing specialties from our home country, Argentina, and we added other South American specialties, and that’s where we found our niche,” she said. “That’s our market.”

Hurricane Maria’s impact on Puerto Rico forced many families to relocate to Central Florida four years ago, but Siracuza said she is seeing more people move to Osceola County from Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina.

She said many of them are looking for the American Dream.

“I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished as a business as a family,” she said. “I would just like the world to know that we’re here to give and how cool is that? How enriching is that?”

Siracuza is a real estate agent, and she is also involved with the Kissimmee Hispanic Business Council, which is part of the Kissimmee Chamber of Commerce.

About the Author:

Erik Sandoval joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2013 and became an Investigator in 2020. During his time at News 6, Erik has covered several major stories, including the 2016 Presidential campaign. He was also one of the first reporters live on the air at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.