(WXYZ) — Thursday marks the official start of Hispanic Heritage Month, a celebration that runs from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 where our country honors the culture and contributions of Americans with Hispanic roots.
The time of celebration is also a period of reflection. People in Southwest Detroit, which has the largest Hispanic population in the state, are working to make sure the celebration does not turn into a Hallmark holiday with Hispanic cliques. Instead, they want people to take time to reflect on the hardship and successes of Latinos in this country and community.
Ray Lozano's family migrated to Detroit during the Mexican revolution in the early 1900s.
Now, the executive director for the Mexicantown Development Corporation is working to turn an empty space off Bagley St. in Southwest Detroit into an art gallery featuring local artists, and a community coffee shop next door serving specialty drinks with a Latin flare.
It's a priority for Lozano, who is also working to teach Latinx culture and the significants of Hispanic Heritage Month.
"A lot of things that happen in the ethnic community are looked at as celebrations and they are, but I also like to take back the back story and the origins," Lozano said.
Hispanic Heritage Month was originally a week started by President Lyndon B. Johnson after some U.S. cemeteries refused to bury Black and Brown veterans in its memorials. Discrimination against Hispanics persisted throughout American history.
"I remember my brother telling stories that they wouldn't let him into beaches locally because he was Mexican," Lozano said.
He said he is thankful times are changing, and there is reason to celebrate, but also it's important to respect.
"Let's take a holiday like Cinco de Mayo right? We just turned that into Modelo's and Tostitos," Kulture Kreators Co-Founder Michael Reyes said. "With something like Hispanic Heritage Month, there is a danger of that, that this could just become another way to sell us things."
Reyes, who mentors, trains and provides space for Black and Brown creatives in the city, said the new generation celebrates their roots through their work.
If you would like to participate in the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month respectfully, Reyes suggests supporting a local Hispanic-owned business or organization and learning about the history and contributions of Latinx people in the country.