Latinx Historical Marker Project

Promoting our rich history through the establishment of Latinx-focused Michigan Historical Marker

The Latinx Historical Marker Project (LHMP) Steering Committee, members of the Latino Community Coalition, Dr. Nora Salas (Kutsche Office of Local History), and Dr. Delia Fernandez-Jones (Michigan State University), invite the community to help reclaim our history in Grand Rapids. By collaboratively applying for Historical Markers from the Michigan Historical Marker Program, we will commemorate historical places and events that helped shape Latinx Grand Rapids today. 

According to the Michigan Historical Commission that oversees this program, “Each marker reflects an important story of a place, an event or a person. It powerfully shows the importance a community places on its heritage and serves as a signpost of historical significance. A marker dedication ceremony is an event of commemoration and even celebration that introduces a lasting resource for tourism, education and community heritage.” There are over 1,800 historical markers in the state of Michigan. Only two of them mention Latinos and none focus on Latino communities in the state. The Latinx community of Grand Rapids is more than a century old and two markers are not nearly enough to commemorate our shared past.

These markers will put the power of storytelling and history into the hands of our community. Putting more of these stories on historical markers will bring much deserved recognition to significant people and places in Michigan’s Latinx history. These new historical markers will serve as a permanent physical representation of how much our Latinx ancestors contributed to the place we now call home.

The Community’s Role in the Latinx Historical Marker Project

The community has two major roles in this project:

  • Providing stories and documentation that support three sites the LHMP proposes as future markers 
  • Proposing other sites that are not yet included 
    • To comply with the Michigan History Commission guidelines for markers, the sites must be at least 50 years old to qualify. For example, if there is a site that was important in 1972, this site qualifies for a marker. We would have to wait until 2027 for a site or event that began in 1977.

Sites the LHMP Proposes

  1. St. Joseph the Worker- Since the mid-1960s, Latinos from all over Latin America have come to worship at St. Joseph the Worker or San Jose Obrero. The parish played and continues to play an important role in providing Latinos a safe, welcoming space to worship and retain their traditional Latino Catholic devotions.
  2. Roberto Clemente Park- As early as the 1940s, Rumsey Park, now known as Roberto Clemente Park, served as a meeting place for Mexicans and Puerto Ricans to play baseball together. In the years since, it has been home to Latino baseball and soccer leagues and still serves as a gathering place for Latinos in the Grandville Avenue neighborhood.
  3. 929 Grandville Avenue – This house served as the Latin American Council as early as the 1970s. The Latin American Council was the first pan-Latino grassroots community organization that provided services to residents in the Grandville Avenue neighborhood. While many of their clientele were Latino, others were Black and white. Community members could go to the Latin American Council for help with translation services, unemployment, and locating basic necessities like food and clothing. It also served as a cultural hub where Latinos of all ages could celebrate their heritages.

Your Contribution

Do you have any memories or documents or photos about these places from before 1972? This might include photos from various events at these places. It could also be a program from St. Joseph’s or a lineup from a baseball game or a copy of a newspaper the Latin American Council used to publish. 

Do you have any other sites in mind that are not listed above that we should look into? 

Click below to share your resources and ideas!