When I was asked by my friends at Destination Cleveland to write about Hispanic Heritage Month in Cleveland, the first thought that crossed my mind was to say no, because at the end of the day, I’m a talker and not a writer. Then again, I’ve never been one to say no to anything, so I find myself trying to put my thoughts on paper about how I and the Hispanic community celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM) in Cleveland.
HHM is observed in the United States from September 15th to October 15th in celebration of the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. It all started in 1968 when President Lyndon Johnson declared Hispanic Heritage Week, which President Ronald Reagan expanded to be a month from 1988 onward.
September 15th is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30-day period.
But enough of the history lesson and let’s get to the part of how I celebrate HHM here in Cleveland.
Rafa En CLE
Image © Rafa Hernandez-Brito
The most important thing for me since coming to Cleveland to become the first ever Spanish voice of the Cleveland Cavaliers has been not only to grow the relationship the Cavs have with the community, but also to raise awareness of the fact that Hispanics are part of this community and care for it as much as any other Clevelander.
I’ve been fortunate that the Cavs as an organization always put our community first and have been on board since day one with helping me make sure that our relationship with Cleveland’s Hispanic community goes beyond ticket sales. This year, we will celebrate our 9th Noche Latina at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, which is the night we celebrate not only our Hispanic fans but also their culture and work in the Cleveland area.
I was born in El Salvador but grew up in Long Island and NYC, so even though I consider myself a New Yorker, my Hispanic roots are something I’m proud and loud about, no mater where I live. The aspects of my culture I celebrate the most are for sure our food and our music, because you could write a hundred books on just those two topics. So let me tell you about my favorite spots in Cleveland to enjoy some delicious “Sabor Latino.”
My favorite and #1 spot in Cleveland that I always recommend is Barroco because you can enjoy the most authentic Latin American food experience in Cleveland in just one spot. From Colombian Arepas and Salvadorean Pupusas, to delicious guacamole, tacos and perfectly cooked meats, you can travel all over South and Central America in one night while enjoying live music and the most delicious drinks in Cleveland. They have three locations, Lakewood, Crocker Park and Willoughby, where you can enjoy Barroco and Hola Tacos in one stop.
For delicious Puerto Rican cuisine, Rincon Criollo on Detroit Avenue is your spot. All their food is made from scratch with the delicious taste of a home cooked meal. Their Jibarito sandwich is my favorite, but really you can’t go wrong with any item on their menu.
El Arepazo y Pupuseria on Lorain Road offers a mix of Colombian and Salvadoran food, but trust me when I tell you, they have the best pupusas in town. On Saturdays, you have to try their meat soup.
If Mexican food is your thing, there are plenty of options in Cleveland, but Momocho in Ohio City, Nuevo by the lake and the tacos at La Plaza Taqueria right next to La Plaza Supermarket are the spots to hit for sure.
When it comes to the community, there are plenty of organizations that have events not only this HHM but throughout the year. Julia De Burgos Cultural Arts Center, Esperanza and Comité Méxicano de Cleveland ( www.comitemexicanodecleveland.org ) are just a few working hard to help the Hispanic community not only celebrate their roots and provide any needed assistance. I highly recommend paying them a visit so you can see for yourself the amazing job they’re all doing helping all of Cleveland.
At this point, I don’t think there’s any doubt that I’m a talker, but as it turns out, I guess I am also a writer after all. It’s funny, the last time I wrote a paper was in 9th grade when I wrote a report on “The Catcher in the Rye.” Hope to see you all soon at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse rooting on the Cavs, and if we ever run into each other, please do not hesitate to stop and say, "HOLA."
Hispanic-Owned Restaurants in CLE
Join us in honoring the contributions of Hispanic and Latinx Americans by exploring these cultures and cuisine at these authentic and endlessly tasty eateries in and around CLE. Click here to hit up even more great Hispanic Restaurants in The Land
From LatinUs Theater to Latino Restaurant Week, celebrate Cleveland's Hispanic community with these events during Hispanic Heritage Month.