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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: Puerto Rican Cultural Committee of West Michigan

The committee aims to bring the Puerto Rican community in Grand Rapids closer together and focuses on community service projects.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — September 15 marks the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month. It's celebrated annually to recognize Hispanic Americans who have contributed and enriched our nation.

"I am from Puerto Rico. Gurabo, Puerto Rico," said Lea Tobar. "I came here on July 7th, 1961."

Since then, Tobar has lived in Grand Rapids. She went to Grand Valley State University and worked three decades for Grand Rapids Public Schools.

"I go to places and see students. [They say] 'Mrs. Tobal remembered me from Union and Central,' and other schools. They're productive citizens and they said, 'I owe it to you.' So, that's my biggest contribution to this community education." 

She's also one of the founders of the Puerto Rican Cultural Committee of West Michigan which started in 2014. The group aims to bring the community closer together, says the current president Margarita Cotto-Hernandez.

"We got together and decided we don't want to meet anymore at funerals," said Cotto-Hernandez. "We decided we wanted to meet at events, Quinceneras and weddings. We decided, let's do something for our heart, our culture."

Currently, the group's focusing on community service projects one of them being an event at Roberto Clemente Park this weekend. They're going to clean the park, socialize and learn more about Clemente, a Puerto Rican baseball player.

"Proud, really proud to be Puerto Rican," said Tobar.

"Food, music and family. I think every culture has the same, but I love mine," said Cotto-Hernandez.

The committee, in partnership with Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation, will be hosting the event at the park Saturday, Sept. 17 between 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

There will be food and refreshments, Caribbean music, domino lessons and more. 

Participants can RSVP by email at puertoricowm@gmail.com or call at 616-460-7035 and leave your name, number attending and contact information. 


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