The percentage of North American jockeys with Hispanic surnames has risen from 30 to 50 percent since the year 2000, according to Equibase statistics compiled by University of Texas associate professor Paul von Hippel. That prominence, von Hippel explains, is not so much a result of increased immigration, but rather a result of what demographers call an “immigrant niche.”
“A niche begins when pioneering immigrants achieve early success in a profession, as (Manuel) Ycaza and (Braulio) Baeza did in the 1950s and 1960s,” von Hippel writes at thoroughbredracing.com. “The pioneers' success made Panamanian jockeys more acceptable to trainers and owners, and made the opportunity to become a U.S. jockey visible to young Panamanians.”
That niche has been solidified through the development of Panama's jockey school, renamed the Laffit Pincay Academy in 2000. Other Latin American countries such as Mexico, Venezuela and Puerto Rico have also developed jockey schools, all of which offer opportunities to young Hispanics which they are likely unable to find outside of riding races.
Read more at thoroughbredracing.com.
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