HUNTERSVILLE – The Hamptons subdivision includes a melting pot of people from around the globe, despite 2010 Census data that shows that 82.8 percent of the town’s 46,773 population is white.
The neighborhood demonstrates diversity as its residents embrace one another, regardless of their ethnic backgrounds.
As an Israeli-born citizen, Rein moved to the United States in 1960 to attend college. She then lived in Atlanta, Ga., for 23 years before moving in 2002 to the Hamptons.
“It is impossible to find a nicer community than Huntersville. People are very positive, friendly, patient and kind,” Rein said. “These same type of people has moved in and out between 2002 and 2014. People are very accepting and interested to discover things.”
She said Huntersville does not compare to her experience in Atlanta working as a dental assistant where at one time, she attended a work party when an orthodontist approached her.
“He stared and said to me ‘It’s OK’ as if he partially accepted me. I am proud to be Israeli, but I am also proud to be an American,” Ana said. “There is no place for racist remarks in this community.”
Ana’s husband, Joseph Rein, was born in Hong Kong and he also came to the states to attend college. He worked in Atlanta at an insurance company for 10 years before coming to Charlotte.
He said his wife felt the Hamptons fit what they were looking for in a home.
Celi and Paul Anatrella
Celi, an Ecuadorian, and Paul, an Italian, moved to the Hamptons neighborhood in 2007 after living in the town for seven years. The neighborhoods and close proximity of her husband’s job sparked the family’s interest in the town.
Celi said the neighborhood is very accepting of her Ecuadorian background, especially since she knows a lot of people from other countries who have traveled the world.
“Right on our street, we have five families where one or both of the parents are minorities, so you could say it is a diverse neighborhood,” Celi said.
Although she finds the neighborhood welcoming, she has experienced slight discrimination in the town and country.
“I took a seminar that opened my eyes about the degree of discrimination that exists in this area,” Celi said. “I felt the pain other minorities (African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Asians) had felt.”
Celi said her daughter and son attend a charter school in Davidson that encourages diversity and does not discriminate against her kids or others of different ethnicities. But one time her son was called a derogatory name when he attended childcare.
“It is very sad that in this century some minorities have to teach their kids not to walk in a store with their hands in their pockets because they could look suspicious or (have a different) skin color,” Celi said. “I think this comes from ignorant people who don’t know or are not open to meeting other cultures.”
Lucia and Ian Koenigsberger
Ian and Lucia, a Guatemalan couple, moved to Huntersville in August 2005, where they have lived now for eight years.
“I needed to be close to the kids’ school and I knew I wanted to put them in St. Mark Catholic School,” Lucia said. “A lot of people Ian worked for recommended Lake Norman.”
Lucia said the Hamptons has grown in the sense all the kids have gotten older. She wishes the cul-de-sac did more parties or gatherings, especially since a neighbor approached her saying she hasn’t felt a part of the neighborhood for five years.
“Lake Norman is very welcoming. I never had a bad encounter. I miss my family in Guatemala, but I feel blessed to be here,” Lucia said. “I feel safer here my kids couldn’t be playing out in the street. In Guatemala, you cannot play on the street. I like that for my kids (with) that freedom here.”
Lucia’s family speaks Spanish in front of other people. A lot of people in the neighborhood say her family is lucky and wish they could speak Spanish.
Gayronza and Doug Thorne
Doug and Gay, African-Americans from North Carolina, met at A&T State University. They moved to the Hamptons nine years ago.
“We looked around north and south Charlotte, but something about Huntersville felt comfortable," Gay said. “It’s a small-town feel and in close proximity to the big city if you need it.”
Gay feels the neighborhood is kid-friendly, which was something that attracted her and Doug. She said the Hamptons is accepting toward her culture, specifically on her cul-de-sac.
“I think we have a unique diversity with our cul-de-sac. We have so many different cultures represented,” Gay said. “But everybody has seen everybody as just neighbors, neighbors without color and neighbors without boundaries.”
At one point, Gay and her husband experienced racism within the neighborhood, but Gay said the man who made the comments has an inappropriate sense of humor.
“He got too comfortable with us,” Gay said. “We are still neighbors. We don’t generalize or stereotype others.”
To celebrate their culture, Doug and Gay along with their kids, go back to the homecoming at their historically black college.
She said her kids have experienced some racism at Lake Norman Charter School, but to her relief, the school reacted positively.
“Both of them experienced episodes of the n-word used,” Gay said. “The kids were just very comfortable. It was not malicious. We know the kids who said it weren’t being mean, but it’s the fact they are comfortable saying that.”
Gay said neighborhood cookouts are a great way for neighbors to learn each other’s cultures and share what they have in common.
“My kids read about (diversity) in school but to actually experience it in your own neighborhood is fantastic.”