Sunday, December 13, 2020

Work continues on Hispanic Heritage center

Proposed Hispanic Cultural Center

By Jacob Fries 

  Undeterred by the COVID-19 pandemic, those at the Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York is still forging ahead with their long-term goals, particularly in the construction of the Hispanic Heritage Cultural Institute on the West Side. 

The council has recently started environmental surveys for a site where they hope to build the center and are currently raising funds for it. The Cultural Institute, which is to be planned for development on the corner of Niagara and Hudson streets would be the first building of its kind in Western New York, and one that could be culturally indispensable for the West Side once it’s completed. 

While the project is still in its fundraising phase, members of the Hispanic Heritage Council feel proud about the funds they’ve raised already from the City of Buffalo, Erie County, and other corporate donations, and feel confident they will be able to raise more of what they will need for the $10 million project. Casimiro Rodriguez, past-president of the Hispanic Heritage Council, is optimistic about their current efforts.

 “We’ve got support from government, private, and public officials. We’ve got really good grassroots support,” Casimiro said. “We have consultants working on the business sustainability plan. We have architects working on the conceptual drawings of the facility, inside and out. We’ve got a team of folks working to make sure that this becomes a reality.”

Manny Lezama, the capital campaign chairperson of the Hispanic Heritage Council, believes that the Institute, once completed, will be a place where people of all ages will be able to be educated and entertained.
       “We have a place where people can actually go,” Lezama said, “and not just young-adults. We have seniors, we have veterans who can go over there and utilize that center to better themselves in many ways.”

The building is intended to be environmentally conscious, and some of its interior spaces proposed will include a museum, an art gallery, a café, a gift shop, a performing arts theater, activity space, learning labs, and even television and radio stations. The Hispanic Cultural Council also made great care to thematically time the opening of the institute to be during Hispanic Heritage month in 2022, which takes place from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.

The decision to build the institute on the West Side was also strongly taken into account, due to its diverse cultural demographics, as well as its proximity to the U.S.-Canada border. While the institute would largely be showcasing Hispanic and Latin cultures, the council is aiming to make it a place where people of all cultures can feel welcome. Buffalo Councilman David A Rivera is optimistic about this notion.
            “It’s a cultural center where people can go, not only for my community but they’re opening up to other communities as well on the city’s West Side,” Councilman Rivera said.
            Rodriguez also emphasized that an institute such as this would be critical in being able to tell Hispanic history for years to come.
            “Every day is a new day for history in our community, and we don’t want to lose any of that,” Casimiro said.

The city of Buffalo has always been able to be enhanced through multiculturalism, and this proposed institute looks to be a reminder that we all have histories that we can be proud of, and they make our communities and ourselves better as a whole.