The Mast-Head: Our Own U.N.

The Census offers a glimpse of a far-more complex demographic reality

So I was down at Town Hall the other day, picking up my dump, ahem, recycling permit, and a clam, uh, shellfish license. As I waited for the next available assistant clerk, I noticed a Latino man taking care of some complicated business at the next assistant clerk’s station. A moment later, a tall man with a long beard wearing a white crocheted cap came in, seeking town taxi paperwork.

No one besides me looked up when the tall man’s cellphone loudly announced driving directions, saying he should make a U-turn. He pulled the thing from his trouser pocket and silenced it. It would be only speculation to guess where he was from. 

According to Google, his cap is called a Kufi, and is worn by Islamic men in many countries. The Latino man was perhaps from Central America, or Mexico, but unless I asked, I would not know for sure. The three of us at the counter made up our own United Nations of a sort, and reflected in a minor way East Hampton’s past, present, and future.

Of course, the sample at the town clerk’s office was much too small to be significant. The Census offers a glimpse of a far-more complex demographic reality, even though outdated and incomplete. Of the resident population in 2010, the last time a field sampling was conducted, 5,660 Hispanic or Latino people lived in East Hampton Town, of which just over 2,300 came from Ecuador alone. These figures are out of a total of about 21,450 people, meaning that Latinos and Hispanics made up more than 26 percent of the population at the time, with Ecuadoreans almost 11 percent of the total.

The population has changed since 2010, for sure, and it changes from season to season. The Census is conducted in April; even seven years ago, the summer makeup of the local population would have been different. Driving a child to school early on Monday, I noticed what looked like a group of Jamaican men on bicycles headed east on Amagansett Main Street in the foggy drizzle. The Census had nothing to say about them.