Rich in culture and continuously growing, the City of Phoenix’s Latino community carries a long history of Mexican, Indigenous, and Central and South American roots that are present throughout the region.
Nearly half of the total population of Phoenix possesses visible Latino roots which many believe should be reflective of the City’s residents and experiences.
At a city council meeting held on September 22, Councilman Carlos Garcia made the following statement, “Considering the Latino population is 44% in the City of Phoenix, it is our duty to produce a cultural center that is absolutely amazing and inclusive of residents everywhere.”
Although the artistic expressions of Phoenix’s Latino community are diverse and vibrant, coverage among other facets of the culture is unfortunately segmented and under-exposed.
In early 2019, former Mayor Thelda Williams established the Latino Cultural Center Ad Hoc Committee to evaluate and make recommendations regarding the proposed construction of the Phoenix Latino Cultural Center, including possible sites for the center.
Later in the year, City of Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture Executive Director Mitch Menchaca identified four sites for consideration, which were the Herberger Theater grounds, the North Building at Margaret T. Hance Park, the Phoenix Public Market parking lot, and the Regency Garage.
After further research was conducted into the specifics of each site, the ad hoc committee moved to approve the North Building adjacent to Margaret T. Hance Park for future development of the Latino Cultural Center due to its size, which included 22,000 square feet along with ample parking and easy access to programmable outdoor space.
“This center will be a jewel in the City of Phoenix and I believe this cultural institution will be a well-known destination point not only for individuals with Latino descent, but for citizens across the valley,” said Councilman Michael Nowakowski.
Event programming within the Latino Cultural Center will include a vast array of artist-led activities such as festivals, workshops, classes, lectures, performances, storytelling, and exhibits with an emphasis on developing the center’s inaugural community services.
“The unanimous vote on the Latino Cultural Center strategic plan demonstrates the support of this Council to create something that generations can enjoy and be proud of,” said Williams.
The massive center will serve as a home for artists and organizations who are already conducting programs and related affairs that create an effective visibility for Latino arts and culture in the community.
The Latino Center Ad Hoc Committee also recommended other events including theatre, film, school programs, artist studios, rehearsal space for practice as well as an incubation space for administrative offices.
“The Latino Cultural Center should be a point of pride for the Latino community and educate, inspire, and entertain all residents and visitors who come to the center,” said City of Phoenix Office of Arts & Culture Public Information Officer Matt Hamada.
Williams and others in the Phoenix City Council felt overjoyed when the final decision was made to move forward with the construction of the Phoenix Latino Cultural Center in addition to describing the great lengths it took to reach their goal.
“We’ve got a lot of work ahead to raise money for the project, but we are moving in a very good direction. I’m extremely grateful for all of the committee members and staff who worked hard on this project,” said Williams.
The City Council also allowed the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture to coordinate pop-up programming at libraries, community centers, and cultural events to promote the Latino Cultural Center before it opens in order to get the community excited about the upcoming project.
Hamada explained that construction will take place when sufficient funds are raised with programming starting as early as next fall, expressing his excitement to begin fundraising on the cultural institution.
“We are looking forward to continuing this project in the future and hopefully, we will have a Latino Cultural Center in the heart of Downtown Phoenix soon,” said Vice Mayor Betty Guardado.