Hispanic Corona’s demographics are changing rapidly. Historically an Italian, Colombian and Dominican neighborhood, it now hosts large communities of Ecuadorians, Mexicans, and Guatemalans. “La Chola”, “Antojitos Colombianos Bakery” and other signs in Spanish set the scene. It smells like tacos and rubbish, depending what street you’re on.
Despite the economic downturn and the lack of jobs, more undocumented immigrants keep on coming to Corona. Some neighbors complain the place is getting too crowded. As many as several families live in a small apartment, Father Villegas of St. Leo Church said. Some others complain because crime rates are increasing, and the hood is not the safe place it used to be.
“Close to the subway in Roosevelt there are drug traffickers, and men selling illegal green cards during the day and naked women during the night,” ex-resident Josefina Joniaux said. Her auto insurance shop was robbed a few years ago, as was the nearby Bravo Supermarket, just four months ago. [See an interesting case of illegal green card fraud in Corona reported by the New York Times here]
Hairdresser Blanca Estela Soriano, like Joniaux, also lived in Corona for a long time — 20 years. But now she only comes here for work. She moved recently to a neighboring area because of safety. “I’ve been living here for a long time, but now I’ve been kind of forced to move to Flatbush,” she said in Spanish outside the beauty parlor where she works.
Like Soriano and Joniaux, many Corona residents have packed and moved somewhere else, but return here for jobs that tie them to their old neighborhood. Despite the constant influx of newcomers, Corona is experiencing a type of exodus. “More than 90% of the population is undocumented here. We don’t have enough resources, there’s a lot of work to do with this community,” Father Villegas said.