Take a tour of Southwest Detroit for National Hispanic Heritage Month

The tours are offered by the City Institute with the goal of providing a deeper understanding of the City of Detroit’s history and residents.

Lydia Gutierrez (left), president of Hacienda Mexican Foods, at Donut Villa with Jeanette Pierce of the City Institute.

Lydia Gutierrez (left), president of Hacienda Mexican Foods, at Donut Villa with Jeanette Pierce of the City Institute.

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15) the City Institute is hosting guided tours in Southwest Detroit to give Michigan residents a taste of Hispanic heritage and culture.

The observance was first recognized in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week. It was then expanded to a 30-day observation in 1988 under former president Ronald Reagan.

Jeanette Pierce is the founder and president of the City Institute, which aims to provide a deeper understanding of the City of Detroit through guided tours, workshops, speaking engagements and more.

“We’ve taken 150,000 people around the City of Detroit to every corner over the last 18 years,” said Pierce, adding that Southwest Detroit is the densest neighborhood in the city.

Juan Carlos Dueweke-Perez, one of the speakers for City Institute for National Hispanic Heritage Month, says Southwest Detroit is home to people from approximately 20 Latin American countries, including Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador and Honduras.

Lex Zavala Director of Development & Operations speaking at the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation

One of the more frequent tour stops in Southwest Detroit is the Hispanic Development Corporation, a 25-year-old nonprofit founded by Angela Reyes to combat violence in the neighborhood.

“When I take people in, they’re absolutely amazed at what’s inside there from hundreds of kids working on robots as part of the robotic program and first robotics teams to a green screen to a full recording studio to a print shop where they hire people who are coming back from being incarcerated,” said Pierce.

Other popular spots include the Donut Villa and Clark Park, where the Detroit Red Wings do their practices in the winter.

Guides can be tailored to arts and culture or more educational-based, depending on what people want to learn. However, Pierce says the learning journeys go beyond traditional tours.

“We’re actually stopping and talking to these people, these business owners and leaders and residents, and really hearing about their challenges, but also their wins and, and really connecting with what’s going on on the ground level in southwest Detroit,” she said.

Dueweke-Perez, owner of Featherstone and a team member of Southwest Detroit Restaurant Week, says there are multiple foods and cultures to learn from in Michigan.

This year Southwest Detroit Restaurant Week took a pause, however taking part in the tours gives Dueweke-Perez a chance to highlight the work of local community organizations and businesses.

“There is so much more that you learn about a neighborhood or your neighborhood, through the learning journeys that you do not know just by living or existing in the neighborhood,” he said.

Tours are offered on demand and open to the public. For a full list of upcoming tours, visit thecityinstitute.com/public-tours.

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  • Nargis Rahman
    Nargis Hakim Rahman is the Civic Reporter at 101.9 WDET. Rahman graduated from Wayne State University, where she was a part of the Journalism Institute of Media Diversity.