"When I first got here, I would hear people say you have to live here 25 years before anyone recognizes you as a native. And I was an Anglo coming into the county and was seen as a newcomer," he said.
Still, Lancaster's heritage has, for the most part, set a tone of tolerance for newcomers, Gray said.
"I think the fact that we have a group of people in Lancaster who are obviously different, who obviously speak a different language, has created a certain type of conservatism that is, 'Don't bother me and I won't bother you,'" he said. "I think it develops a certain tolerance for people who are different. Not that Latinos are going to be that different for long."
Donald Kraybill, a senior fellow at the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College, said the growth in Latinos in the county has coincided with the outmigration of Amish and other plain-dressing groups — Old Order Mennonite and Conservative Mennonite — to Kentucky, New York, Indiana and Wisconsin.
"Since then, you have a dribble of families leaving each year basically looking for cheaper land and more rural conditions where they might be more cloistered and sheltered," Kraybill said. "It's been sort of a steady dribble, but even with that it hasn't hurt the rise of the Amish population."
Kraybill said plain communities such as the Amish generate about $10 million in tourism trade each year.
"I would say that over the last 30 years, Lancaster County has become more diverse," he said. "You have Asians, a lot of ethnic groups. It's not a homogenous area, even though the Amish get a lot of media attention."
Escobar-Haskins said the Latino community continues to emerge as a force in the community, meeting once a month, for instance, in Latino First Thursday forums to discuss business but mostly network.
Latinos still have large gains to make in education, where Latino students persistently lag behind white counterparts, and politics, she said.
"But I would like to see more successes in getting Latinos in elected positions. We haven't achieved that level of political power yet," Escobar-Haskins said.
Latinos experience the same obstacles faced by immigrant groups before them, although some also deal with racism, she said. Latinos can be of any race — and sometimes within one family, Escobar-Haskins said.
"I consider Latinos to be the bridge people," she said. "We are multicultural just by nature, because our families are multicultural, the countries we come from have that multiculturalism. Today, a lot of that line is blurring — even in the United States."