'El Mercado de Long Beach,' creating a Latino cultural district
On March 2, the Long Beach City Council formally discussed the creation of a Cultural District dedicated to the Latino community in the city.
The proposal for the creation of a Latino cultural district in Long Beach, California was by the City Council on March 2. The project is not a new idea, however, the coronavirus crisis and its impact on the Latino community pushed back on the agenda and the urgency of implementing tools to mitigate the immediate consequences of the pandemic.
As early as late 2020, Councilmember Uranga, Councilmember Zendejas, the CHA Center, and the City of Long Beach began envisioning the process for a Latino Cultural Center that would serve as a community center for local and regional Latino arts, culture, and history.
The 'El Mercado de Long Beach' initiative emerged from the CHA Center and proposes to build a space in the district that includes restaurants, grocery stores, retail, housing, entertainment, arts, and social services managed by and for the city's Latino community. The space to carry out the project would be the area around Cesar E. Chavez Park, just west of downtown, explained Jessica Quintana, executive director of Centro CHA.
"A lot of Latinos work in retail, food, performing arts, and it's critical now with the pandemic, let's address this as a part of Latino economic equity and really look at a long-term recovery plan because it's going to take a long time for our community to recover from this pandemic," Quintana said.
The administration's task will be to investigate the feasibility and possible funding options for the project, which also contemplates including health care centers and workshops that can address issues that have particularly affected the community over the past year, such as food insecurity.
The potential of the project is significant, not only because of the socio-economic impact it will have on the Latino community in Long Beach, which represents about 43% of the residents according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but also because similar experiences in other cities show the positive impact of these projects is felt throughout the city.
Projects such as Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles and Plaza de la Raza in East Los Angeles have strengthened the city as a tourist destination.