Hispanic Heritage Month kicks off first day of the month

NOW: Hispanic Heritage Month kicks off first day of the month

Friday marks the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month. The month highlights the contributions, diversity and history of the Hispanic and Latino population.

Executive director at La Casa de Amistad Juan Constantino says the early history of the Latino community in South Bend dates to the 1970s and early 80s where the population was only three percent.

Decades later, 17 percent of people living in South Bend are Latino, with 10 percent in St. Joseph County. Neighboring Elkhart County has nearly a 25-percent Latino population.

Constantino says the month is a reminder that the culture needs to always be celebrated through the community by uplighting and through representation.

"To have what we have in our community, to see the diversity represented within our business owners and leadership in the community, to see the diversity of the population within our students, it’s just beautiful to see," Constantino said. "We're talking about our future teachers, doctors, engineers, elected officials, community executive directors and so forth. It's wonderful, it makes it feel like home. It allows us to be proud of who we are and what we do and also equally recognize our differences."

Along with Hispanic Heritage Month, La Casa de Amistad is celebrating a big milestone: 50 years in the community. The center aims to help the Hispanic and Latino community through education, culture and advocacy services.

Constantino it’s exciting to see how far they’ve come.

“We look at where we started in a residential home on the west side of South Bend to what used to be an old Polish department store to now this 41,000 square foot facility from helping 6,000 people to 42,000 people in 2022, it’s quite the swing for us. It's emotional, it’s exciting and it’s a time where we see our community and population growing and diversifying and it’s also an opportunity to make an impact in the lives of thousands of people and families,” Constantino said.

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