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L.A. Now Live: Shifting demographics in San Fernando Valley

August 20, 2012 |  8:09 am

Times reporter Catherine Saillant will join L.A. Now Live to discuss the changing demographics in the San Fernando Valley. The live chat is scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday.

Recent studies have shown that the stream of Mexican immigrants to California is slowing, and in their place, a bustling Central and South American community is taking root.

Indeed, the greater Van Nuys area and its apartment-rich neighborhoods has become a thriving hub not of Mexican immigrants as much as Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Hondurans, Ecuadoreans and Peruvians. They are blending into towns next door — Panorama City, North Hollywood and Reseda — to form a sprawling colony of sorts.

A broad change in immigration patterns is underway, according to researchers with the Pew Hispanic Research Center.

Central American immigrants still account for just a fraction of immigration from Latin American countries. An estimated 31 million Mexicans have made their home in the United States over the last 30 years, compared with 3.8 million from Central American countries.

But as more and more Mexican immigrants return home, get intercepted at the border or don't bother to come, poverty, violence and high unemployment in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras are still prompting tens of thousands to leave their home countries every year. They make the often perilous 2,000-mile journey by train, bus, van, and sometimes, foot.