The Latino, or Hispanic, community in Grand Rapids dates back as far as the 1920s, when a small number of young men from Mexico came here to work in railroad jobs. Almost a century later, this community has grown into a significant social and economic force, influencing the city in ways large and small.
As of the latest census, Latinos represent about 16% of the Grand Rapids population. The Hispanic population of Kent County, where Grand Rapids is situated, grew by 29% between 2010 and 2020. It was the largest increase, in raw numbers, among all racial and ethnic groups.
Growth is expected to continue in the years to come, just as the number of Latino businesses continues to rise year after year – in southwest Grand Rapids, the traditional heart of the local Hispanic community, and throughout the city. Latino-owned supermarkets, restaurants, shops and services cater not only to local residents, but also to visitors seeking an authentic experience.
About 60% of the city's Latino population self-reports Mexican ancestry, followed by people by significant numbers who report Central American, Guatemalan and Dominican heritage. While each group takes great pride in the distinctive traditions of their homeland, they are united by common values of faith, family and entrepreneurial spirit – the same values that have always defined Grand Rapids.
All of this makes Grand Rapids a very welcoming destination for Latino-friendly convention groups, entertainment acts and festivals. Here’s just a glimpse of how the city celebrates Latino culture:
This video was designed to highlight the many events and attractions that the Kent County Convention/Arena Authority (CAA) have supported recently that demonstrates their ongoing commitment to our Latino community.
- The Hispanic Center of West Michigan provides a wide range of services in the historic heart of the Grand Rapids Latino community.
- The West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce works to increase the economic advancement of Hispanic-owned businesses.
- Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities and Cook Arts Center provide enriching opportunities for youth and adults in Southtown and beyond.
- Festival del Cinco de Mayo (May) commemorates La Batalle de Puebla, also known as Cinco de Mayo, with food trucks, live music, activities for children and an arts and craft sale.
- The Grand Rapids Hispanic Festival (August) brings musicians, singers, dancing, and authentic food and merchandise to downtown’s Calder Plaza.
- Fiesta Mexicana (September) is three days of authentic music, dance, food, carnival games and more in downtown Grand Rapids.
Points of Interest
- Grand Rapids is a sister city to Zapopan, Mexico.
- Grandville Avenue SW was renamed Cesar E. Chavez Ave. SW in 2022 to honor the Mexican American labor leader and civil rights activist.
- More than 100 local Latino restaurants include such recent additions as Bravo Bakery, El Cerrito Cocina Mexicana, MeXo (pre-Hispanic Mexican cuisine), Pochis Colombian Café and RIO Peruvian & Mexican Café.
- Check out some of the city’s best destinations for tacos, margaritas and nachos – many of the establishments are owned by Hispanic Americans.
- City Built Brewing Co., headed by the grandchild of immigrants from Puerto Rico, partnered with Detroit’s Batch Brewing Co. in 2023 to launch “Mi Gente” (My People), a collaborative project celebrating Latino and Hispanic brewers.
- The 49507 Murals Project enlists local Brown and Black artists and businesses to raise awareness about underinvestment in southeast and southwest GR.
- In downtown GR, a 40-ft. mural in the alley between San Chez Bistro and The BackForty Saloon pays tribute to Maurilia Ortiz Blakely, whose accomplishments included creating the Hispanic Institute and helping organize the city’s first Mexican Festival in 1970.
- Local Latino media include El Informador, El Vocero Hispano, LaVoz, and Lazo Cultural newspapers, La Mejor GR and La Poderosa radio (93.3 FM/810 AM).