Gavel, scales of justice and law books

Phoenix City Council last week gave a unanimous blessing to a Latino Cultural Center that will be built somewhere after almost 20 years of discussing it. 

The idea originated in 2001 when bond money was given to an organization called Museo Chicano to expand their space in Downtown Phoenix. 

The organization folded in 2005, but the bond money was reserved for a future Latino capital project, said Mitch Menchaca, the director of the city Office of Arts and Culture. 

The space was eventually rented out by someone else and the bond money was left on a hold until 2016, when the Office of Arts and Culture hired a professional consultant to conduct an analysis of what it would require to build a Latino Cultural Center, said Menchaca. 

Council last week approved an ad-hoc team to take the lead and figure out the next steps and the center’s future operation. 

The committee asked Council to approve of three additional recommendations. 

The first recommendation was that the center would be run by the city for the first five years, then be passed down to a nonprofit or collective. 

Second, the Office of Arts and Culture should coordinate pop-up program events to promote the center before opening. 

Lastly, a Friends of Latino Cultural Center nonprofit should be set up to recruit inaugural board members. 

The Friends of Latino Cultural Center would help raise money and spread awareness about the center and maybe one day can take over operations, according to Menchaca.

Latinos account for almost 44 percent of Phoenix’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. 

Adding this center will be great for that population if it is placed in the right area, Ahwatukee resident and 2018 Republican mayoral candidate Moses Sanchez said.

Public safety and education are what matter most to the people of Ahwatukee, Sanchez said.

 He is “all for” the Phoenix Latino Cultural Center, as long as the budget doesn’t affect those two key factors. 

What the Latino people of Phoenix really want from a cultural center is a place that is for, “celebrating the rich traditions of the Latino population but also a place that can educate and inspire residents and visitors,” said Menchaca. 

Council approved the use of the North Building at Hance Park in Phoenix to be utilized for the Latino Cultural Center while the committee explores other sites around the city. 

Manchaca said he and the ad-hoc team are happy Council approved their recommendations but added that the center is “not going to happen overnight."

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