The Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York is committed to both honoring the ancestors who came before them and creating a better future for their children. We at Rich's agree.
As Casimiro Rodriguez, president of the HHC explains, the Hispanic community in Western New York has grown since the late 1800s when the first immigrants arrived. He feels connected to the Hispanic and Latino people who have come before him, and thinks it is important to honor the history of the community. He says, “They were here searching for the American dream, just like all the other immigrants. They came here for good opportunities for their future, for their families. And we, right now, are the products of those who came. They came here with hardships – they didn’t know the language, some of them had very little education. But that did not stop them from succeeding, and owning homes, and producing us. And now we give back to the community because we’re grateful for that.”
The Hispanic Heritage Council has found many ways to honor their history. One example, is the partnership with Albright Knox Art Gallery that created a Hispanic heritage mural in the Niagara Street corridor. Rodriguez notes with gratitude that this project was made possible by the support of Rich Products. He remembers sitting down to talk with Kevin Aman, Rich’s Communications Director, to share his vision for the project. After a few more meetings, they had committed to making the mural a reality.
As they prepared for the mural painting, the HHC worked closely with the Hispanic community to ensure that the project reflects their rich history and heritage. The female muralist, who is of Puerto Rican descent – the largest Latino ethnic group in Buffalo – met with members of the community to talk about their ideas. As she painted, she also taught her technique to young people in the community so that in the future, they can create art for their community.
Rodriguez believes the mural serves as an anchor for both the Hispanic community and the City of Buffalo in general. He says, “We’re hoping that this is the first in a series of murals that will depict positive aspects of our community – our past, present, and future. Right now, we’re creating the history for future generations and we want to preserve that. It’s also part of the beautification of Niagara Street. Art is an important part of culture and community development.” Rodriguez is especially excited about the influence that the mural will have on children in the community, because it will connect them to their heritage and open their imaginations for their futures.
Just as the mural is an anchor in the community, Rodriguez believes that Rich Products has been an anchor to the Hispanic community through its support of this project. He says that Rich’s is a “true partner” because “the contribution that Rich’s is making is going to be long-term. It’s not going to be something temporary. To put a mural up on a building? That’s going to last, and it’s going to tell a story.”
Members of the HHC think that the mural promotes an awareness of and appreciation for the Hispanic community in Buffalo, and hopes that other community members will be inspired to get more involved. HHC Vice President Maritza Vega and Secretary Tamara Alsace explain that it’s a common misconception that their events are only for Hispanic people – or that you have to speak Spanish to participate. In fact, they highly encourage non-Hispanic community members to attend their events to volunteer, participate, or simply learn more about their rich history and culture.
Photo courtesy of Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York