El Buen Amigo translates to good friend, so it's no surprise the fair trade store has lasted so long in the city of good neighbors.
Santiago Masferrer, the owner and founder of the Latin American Cultural Association, came to Buffalo from Chili in 1977 after being held as a political prisoner for 22 months.
"We bring two suitcases full of craft. After that, a few months and a few years we bring craft from Peru, and for three years we were working different country, different group of people in the basement of my home," Masferrer said.
While holding full time jobs and studying at the University at Buffalo, Santiago sold handmade items from workers in different countries and eventually needed more space, so he purchased the building on Elmwood Avenue and opened it to the public — even offering Spanish classes and other programs.
"It's a window, a cultural window, all Latino people to the American people," Masferrer said.
He says in Hispanic culture murals are an important way to showcase history, and that is why for the past 20 years he has been wanting to bring one to the community, depicting the "Open Veins of Latin America."
Masferrer says especially in today's political climate, it's important to remember what happened in the past.
"And what I see today, not just in the United States, in many countries, important countries, go in the wrong direction. Less democratic, less freedom of speech, people in fear of the truth. We need to say pictographically, no. We are alive, the future is in our hands," Masferrer said.
Colleen Dunham has worked with Santiago in the past, and has been on board helping with the mural project for the past couple of months along with other volunteers.
She says they're in the process right now of finding an artist and securing the money they need for supplies and anything else they might need. They hope to have the project complete by September.
"We really want to reveal this for Hispanic Heritage Month, ambitious given where we are right now but that's our dream," Dunham said.
She too believes it is the perfect time for this project.
"I mean what is the biggest issue in our politics today? It's the division of us and them right? It's the wall that's on everybody's mind, and what this store does is sort of break down that wall and turn it into a window," Dunham said.
For more information on how to get involved with the mural project or donate, you can e-mail or call Santiago at 716-885-6343. Colleen can be reached at 505-934-5571 or e-mailed at email@example.com.