The coronavirus pandemic might have slowed down plans to build the Hispanic Heritage Cultural Institute, but the passion to preserve that history and educate future generations about Hispanic culture remains the same.
During countless meetings, past Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York president Casimiro D. Rodriguez and other leaders have forged out plans for an place in the heart of Buffalo's West Side.
"The institute is going to be an anchor in our community and in Western New York," said Rodriguez. "It's going to be the first in upstate New York, an institute of its kind."
The vision has been in the making for years. The 28,000 square-foot building will sit at the corner of Niagara and Hudson streets. The $10 million project will showcase the contributions of Hispanics in Western New York with a museum, media center, theater, dance, learning labs, and guitar lessons. The list of programs continues to grow.
"We hope that the children of the community and the schools take advantage of the programs that the institute will offer not only for the children but for the adults as well," said Rodriguez.
The project is entering the phase of an environmental study in order to get the green light for a ground breaking next fall. Manny Lezama is the project’s capital campaign chair, and they're relaunching their efforts to raise money to make this dream a reality.
"It seems like with COVID-19 were finally getting a little bit of stabilization for us to continue the moving parts of the campaign funds," said Lezama.
The City of Buffalo has promised to financially back the project but has not specified an amount. Lezama says in the long-term it’s a worthy investment not just for the Hispanic community, but for Buffalo as a whole.
"We want the youth to get involved with the elder Hispanic members and the reason why is that we want them to pass the experience to the young generation. We want to maintain traditions. The cultural institute has a lot of diverse programs. We are evolving we built a committee recently to create a revolving program that can react to the necessity of the city of Buffalo,” said Lezama.
The council plans to officially open the center by fall 2022.