Much as they have done in other third-class tier cities across the country, Latinos in Lancaster will inevitably stake a claim to the mayor's office and more sweeping presence in leadership roles, said G. Terry Madonna, the political analyst and pollster at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster.
"I think that's coming," he said. "It's just a question of experience, of getting people into the city council, school board, places that are building blocks. You just don't go from no political activity, even modest political activity, to mayor. It's happened in other places. It will happen here."
Culturally, Latinos lean conservative, with high value placed on family and religion, but have historically voted Democratic in the region.
Still, as a voting bloc in this solidly conservative region where there are nearly twice as many Republicans as Democrats, the Latino factor will eventually play a pivotal role in future electoral contests.
Just 20 years ago, the city of Lancaster, much like the surrounding county, was a Republican enclave. The city's political flavor has changed decidedly during the past two decades to Democrat. The Latino vote stands to eventually sway county results.
"Certainly in presidential elections, even the next election, Republicans will have to find a way to tap into that Latino vote," Madonna said. "Maybe that's an appeal to culture. As Latinos open up businesses, they get a sense of entrepreneurship, Republicans might find a message there. But it's a major voting bloc that both parties will have to court and take seriously."
For Javier Segura, on a recent day, the midday crowd trickling into his shop for burritos, quesadillas and tacos dorado affirmed the sense that this once all-white enclave has become a thriving community of diversity.
Segura once had a lock on products used in Latin American cuisine, but these days he has a lot of competition. He works long days but hasn't given up the idea that an even bigger venture might be in store for him.
"One never knows," he said. "I think that with this it's good. You have to dedicate a lot of time ... it requires me to be here all the time. Maybe that's enough. But one never knows ... maybe there are other opportunities. We could do something else."
Segura said he feels very much a part of the Lancaster community.
"This is where we set roots," he said. "They treat us well. I can't complain. It's like with anything, some people see us with not good eyes, but the rest ... all is good."
Information from: The Patriot-News, http://www.pennlive.com/patriotnews
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.