This year marks the sixth year Canada has officially recognized October as ‘Latin American Heritage Month’. Photo credit: Getty Images
According to the Niagara Priority Profiles: Ethno-Racial & Immigration, in 2021 the Niagara Region was home to approximately 7,000 residents who identify as being from Latin American origin. This is 1.49 per cent of the population in the Niagara Region, an increase from 1.05 per cent in 2016. While a lower amount than other regions in Canada, the Latin American and Hispanic community in Niagara remains significant.
Temporary Foreign Workers, also known as migrant workers, are not included in the census but play a vital role in the local economy. Most of these workers originate from Mexico and the Caribbean.
Adriana Clifford founded and has been president of the Latin Immigrant Niagara Community Association (LINCA) for 23 years. The LINCA focuses on promoting Latin culture by offering services as well as social activities for the community.
The organization started from the need to help newcomers integrate themselves into the community. One of the main programs that LINCA runs is Spanish classes in partnership with the District School Board of Niagara through the International Languages program. This program provides the opportunity for elementary school students to learn another language other than English and French.
“[The Spanish classes] help maintain the culture and make sure that the new generation of Latinos don’t lose the roots of where we come from,” said Clifford.
While the majority of students in these classes are of Latin and Hispanic descent, there are also students from different backgrounds, and it is open to anyone in the community who wishes to learn Spanish.
While there are no planned events during Latin American Heritage Month, LINCA hosts events throughout the year celebrating the Latin culture. Another program they run is folkloric and cultural dances. Where families learn choreographed cultural dances of different Latin countries, but mainly Colombian dances.
In celebration of the Latin American Heritage Month in Canada, Clifford said, “let’s keep growing. We are a beautiful community, it’s an amazing thing to see all these new [Latin] restaurants emerging and the community moving forward.”
In the midst of the growing Latin community in the Niagara Region, a new non-profit organization was founded this summer. Marvin Molina, Director and Founder of Latinos in Niagara, reminisced on the Latin Fest at Club Lasalle at Sunset beach in St. Catharines in July. The two-day event consisted of free entertainment for the general public with dancing, live music, DJs, contests and giveaways. The organization plans on building on the momentum and continue hosting events.
“[Another focus is] to assist newcomers and the less fortunate in our communities as well. Giving back to the community is key factor for us. We have many plans for the winter months and next year, we’re currently organizing a toy donation, food, shelter material such as blankets, meal kits, clothing and monetary for the purposes to distribute to [those in need during] the Christmas Holidays,” said Molina.
Canada’s multiculturism is ever growing; celebrating Latin American Heritage Month is a meaningful way of learning more about the Latin and Hispanic community. For more information and educational resources, click here for a list made by the Canadian Centre of Diversity and Inclusion.