Gemma Bolanos said she used to feel like the lone "Mexican" living in a sea of white people in the city of Sonoma.
But then the Sonoma Valley High School junior began to notice a change.
"I feel like I blend in," she said. "Everything is coming together."
New census data shows that the number of Latinos living in Sonoma has more than doubled in the past decade. That in turn has fueled a near-doubling of the city's overall minority population — from 10.8 percent of residents in 2000, to 20.8 percent in 2010.
Sonoma is no longer the county's least diverse city. That title now belongs to Sebastopol, which has a minority population of 10 percent, according to the census.
Sonoma's changing demographics have presented opportunities and challenges for the city's 10,648 residents, the overwhelming majority of whom — 80 percent — are white.
Like almost every American city, Sonoma has struggled at times with its ethnic diversity.
In 1992, a black Sonoma businessman bought a full-page ad in the Sonoma Index-Tribune to protest what he viewed as racial stereotyping after he was repeatedly stopped by Sonoma police officers.
That led former Mayor Larry Murphy to create the Sonoma Cultural Awareness Committee, which met periodically until disbanding in 1994.
The relationship between minority residents and the city's police department, which now is run by the county Sheriff's Office, has improved since then, said Kara Reyes, director of family services for the non-profit La Luz Center.
But she said there's still room for improvement, including a need for more police officers who speak Spanish.
"It has been very difficult for both sides when they (police) don't have any Spanish-speakers," Reyes said.
Sonoma added 1,231 minorities during the past decade, including 1,009 Latinos, 143 Asians, 17 Native Americans and 17 African Americans.
Those numbers do not include Boyes Hot Springs or Agua Caliente, which are outside city limits.
Reyes, who is white, said she and her husband, who is Latino, recently moved from Boyes Hot Springs to the city of Sonoma. She said her husband is the only person of color on the block.
Nevertheless, Reyes said more efforts are being made at inclusion in Sonoma, citing as an example La Luz receiving an invitation from the organizers of the popular Tuesday night Farmer's Market, held at the downtown plaza, to help out on opening night.
"I've never seen the farmer's market reach out to the Latino community," Reyes said. "It's 95 percent white when you walk around the plaza."
She said Sonoma's diversity is mainly seen within the workforce that supports the city's tourism industry: the people who cook or serve the food, clean hotel rooms or work at wineries.
Father Adam Kotas, who leads Spanish-speaking services St. Francis Solano Church in Sonoma, said a number of his parishioners have reported living in apartments or homes with other families in an effort to make ends meet.
"They work in a car wash or restaurant making eight dollars an hour, and the rents around here are horrendous," Kotas said.
Kotas, who has been a priest for eight months, said St. Francis is struggling to keep up with the demand for services, and is considering adding another Mass for Spanish-speakers.
"We are swamped," he said.