In Detroit, Latinos might not have much in the way of political power, but they do have numbers. Over the last 20 years, Tony Castro reports for Voxxi.com, the city’s Latino population has risen from 28,473 to 48,679, and it’s still growing. This is significant, since the city’s overall population has fallen 26 percent since 2000, as the unemployment rate has tripled.
And the Motor City’s Latino population isn’t simply large. It’s young and entrepreneurial, Castro reports. The median age is 24, and in the southeast neighborhood known as Mexicantown, there are more than 250 Hispanic-run small business. Numbers such as these have sparked hopes that Latinos could spearhead the economic recovery in the once-great metropolis.
“We come starving for a better life,” Valeria Montes, a Mexican-born Flamenco dance instructor, tells Castro. “We want to strive and we’ve found in southwest Detroit a place to do it. The opportunity was here for us, and we took it.”
Relative to the rest of the city, things certainly seem to be thriving in Mexicantown. As Voxxi reports, more than $200 million has been invested in the neighborhood since 2000, and at the city’s famed Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, 70 percent of families are Hispanic.
“We have enough money in the economy that businesses can sustain retail establishments by primarily relying on Latino customers and clients,” restaurant owner Rodrigo Padilla tells Castro.
Perhaps the greatest proof of the Latino community’s growing clout comes in the form of the Latino Press, a newspaper started by Chilean immigrant Elias Gutierrez. In an era when print publications are folding all over the country, Gutierrez has managed to start one that’s actually thriving.
“When I decided to make this publication I didn’t think of it as a business, but a way for the Hispanic community to contact and communicate with each other,” Gutierrez tells Castro. “Later, it just transformed into a business when thousands of Hispanics began to arrive in Michigan. They wanted to know … where to buy from, to eat, hire a lawyer, a doctor or a place to dance.”