Gulf Coast Seeing More "Se Habla Espanol" Signs

Signs that read "Se Habla Espanol" or "Spanish is Spoken Here" have become more visible in Coast store windows the last few years. The boom in the local Hispanic population is evident by the increase in businesses, radio programs, and even worship services that cater to the Spanish speaking community.

Restaurant owner Martin Flores made Gulfport his home 10 years ago. Back then, the Mexico native rarely heard Spanish spoken around town.

"When I started here with this restaurant, it was hard to see Mexican people on the street or in the stores, but now you see people everywhere."

Customers from places like Panama, Puerto Rico, and Mexico regularly visit Christian Cruz's store looking for "un pedacito de su tierra" or "a little piece of home."

Only five months after opening, the Honduran businessman's sales are better than expected and new people are coming in every day.

"I saw the Latino community growing everyday and I saw a lot of people moving to here to the coast from Florida and Louisiana," said Cruz. "I think that will be a good business."

Cruz and Flores credit the Coast's good economy, low cost of living, and good weather for bringing more Latinos here. But they say it's the friendliness of the people that makes them stay.

Flores remembers one of his very first customers.

"This lady, she come to the restaurant and she come to tell me 'Hey, welcome to Gulfport, Mississippi and good luck to you' and I said, 'thank you very much.'"

According to the Gulf Coast Latin Association there are about 16,000 Hispanics living on the coast.