PORTLAND (AP) – Maine’s black population nearly doubled between 2000 and 2005 but the state remains the whitest in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Census Bureau estimated the number of blacks in Maine in 2005 at 13,456, about 1 percent of the population. That is up from 6,760, or 0.5 percent of the population, in 2000. The white population, during that five-year period, declined from 96.9 percent to 96 percent.

In recent years, the Portland and Lewiston-Auburn areas have been resettlement centers for immigrants and refugees, including those from Somalia.

Other racial minority groups also gained in population.

The Census Bureau releases annual population revisions between decennial censuses that are based on birth and death rates and migration trends.

Maine’s southernmost counties have some of the state’s largest populations of blacks. The number of blacks increased from 817 to 1,058, or 29.5 percent, in York County and from 3,083 to 4,056, or 31.6 percent, in Cumberland County.

Noel Bonam, director of the new state Office for Multicultural Affairs, said the census data confirm anecdotal evidence that Maine’s immigrant population is growing but cautioned that true numbers may be elusive. His office plans to raise awareness about the Census with the help of grass-roots immigrant groups starting next year.

More new residents are coming from Massachusetts, and Maine State Economist Catherine Reilly said that may promote greater ethnic diversity.

Reilly said the growth of minority and immigrant groups can counter the aging of Maine’s population.

Androscoggin County had the largest increase in black residents with the population growing from 709 to 1,492, or 110.4 percent. Maine’s Hispanic population increased from 9,360 to 13,045, or 39.4 percent.

Juliana Vazquez, once the only Hispanic student at Narraguagus High School in Harrington, estimates there are at least 15 other Latinos there now. “We like how the community tries to involve the Mexican people,” said Vaszquez.

, who is raising a 1-year-old daughter in Milbridge. “They even try to learn Spanish.”

Information from: Portland Press Herald, http://www.pressherald.com

AP-ES-08-05-06 1113EDT

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