Flint, MI—Flint’s potential to become a hub for Latinx culture was put on full display during the 20th-anniversary celebration of the city’s Latinx Technology and Community Center.
Despite heavy rain, hundreds of community members as well as visitors from across the state were treated to free performances from Flint’s Repertory Theatre, Latin Soul from Grand Rapids and Orquesta Trabuco y Son from Detroit.
Attendees feasted on South and Central American foods like empanadas, arepas, tacos and fajitas, while inside the building Hamilton Health Network set up a vaccination clinic.
The diversity at the celebration extended past just the food being served. Among those in attendance were people from Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Peru and Ecuador.
“I’m feeling very blessed,” Asa Zuccaro, director of the tech center said.”
The support from community members, vendors and community partners like Hamilton Health showed Zuccaro that a sense of community and identity is is growing within the city’s Latinx population.
That, Zuccaro said, was the real cause for celebration.
“The organization (tech center) is celebrating 20 years of service but really today really we are celebrating the community and its growth. This is the first time we’ve ever been able to host an event of this size, featuring community entrepreneurs and something like a full-size stage,” Zuccaro said.
Rosanna Calma, a Venezuelan immigrant and member of the community was one of the many vendors present. As someone who loves to cook, Calma had long been looking for a way to share Venezuelan culture with Flint while being able to make some money in the process.
With help from the Flint Social Club, an organization designed to help aspiring chefs, Calma was able to make her idea into a reality. By the end of the day, she had completely sold out her stuffed arepas.
“Today I had the opportunity to serve food from my country, Venezuela, to the community. My arepas come with the option to be stuffed with either black beans, chicken or pork. There is a lot more food here than just my own though. There are cooks here from Costa Rica, Cuba and Argentina,” Calma said.
For Calma, being able to sell food she’d made while educating others on her culture just “felt good.”
“People in the community are learning about my country and I’m able to make some extra money. It’s a big help and a big opportunity to be able to do this. I’m doing what I like,” Calma said.
Zuccaro said seeing the event come together the way it did was a wake-up call for him. With talks about creating a Latinx District in Flint hinging on whether or not the Latinx community is large enough to support such an endeavor, successful displays of community engagement are essential, he said.
Though there are no official plans for what the tech center’s next event will be, Zuccaro said, “Flint should expect something big coming from the Latinx community soon. Bigger than the celebration we just had. The community is here and it’s going to be more present in the city.”