ALLENTOWN, Pa. - It's National Hispanic Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of 62 million Hispanic residents in the U.S.

It's a rainy day on Allentown's 7th Street. At Pares Appliance, Leandro Pares is getting ready to go on a service call. He's been in business on the corridor for 27 years.

"When I started to open my business not too many Spanish people lived around here," said Pares.

Economic development officials say 73 percent of businesses on 7th Street are now Hispanic owned, something celebrated during National Hispanic Heritage Month.

"We do have a significant Latino population. We have about 60% Latinos in Reading, approaching 57% in Allentown, and just over 40%, in Bethlehem," said AJ Suero, Chair of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of the Greater Lehigh Valley.

Suero says Hispanics have made significant contributions to the community.

Some of the earliest Lehigh Valley Hispanic residents came to help with a labor shortage at Bethlehem Steel in 1928.

Since then, the Hispanic population has grown to nearly 1 million people statewide or 8.4% of state residents who raised families, built businesses and broke barriers. Like Eddie Moran, the first Hispanic Mayor of Reading.

"It does give me great honor and privilege to know that I made history and that I represent and give hope to a community, that they have seen somebody that look like them," said Moran.

Hispanic Heritage Month was established by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968 to celebrate the cultures and contributions Hispanics have made in the U.S.

But Hispanic leaders it's also a time to talk about their challenges and how to keep the momentum of the community going.

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