CALIFORNIA (1)

8602360880?profile=originalIt's official: Latinos are the new majority across the Coachella Valley.

Their numbers are up, and dramatically so.

In 2000, roughly 122,000 Latinos called the valley home.

In 2010 U.S. Census data released Tuesday, that number is now 187,900, a 54 percent increase. The total includes the valley's nine cities, Bermuda Dunes, Mecca, Thermal and Thousand Palms.

The 65,900-plus Latinos gained in the past decade across the valley are nearly the equivalent of adding another Desert Hot Springs and Palm Springs.

Proximity to the border, available jobs, lower housing costs and weather are among some of the reasons why Latinos might choose to live here, some local Latino residents said.

“They feel like they're at home,” said Erika Omier, a Spanish teacher at Palm Springs High School. “If you go to Montana or Seattle, you're not going to feel like you're at home.

“When you're in California, you feel like you're in Mexico or Nicaragua.”

Erika Omier and her husband, Julio Omier, an assistant principal at Raymond Cree Middle School, are among the valley's recent transplants, having moved here from Oregon five years ago.

Erika Omier is originally from Mexico, Julio Omier from Nicaragua.

For an educator passionate about English language learners, as Julio Omier is, California was the obvious choice. READ MORE

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