In the shadows of the Michigan Central Station and the Ambassador Bridge on the fringe of downtown Detroit is Mexicantown. Like other major metropolitan cities with small ethnic communities, Detroit’s Mexicantown is probably the largest ethnic community outside the city center. It’s also less popularly known by many residents of the Detroit metro area unlike its Greek counterpart.
My parents started taking my brother and I to Mexicantown when we were kids. It was a huge treat to know that Xochi’s was on the itinerary for our Detroit adventure day. If we went to the Auto Show, we went to Mexican Village before for lunch. If we went to a Wings game, we green lit our evening at Xochi’s before the game. Or if we spent hours exploring the shelves at John King, we went to Las Galanes to discuss the books we bought afterwards. The dishes at every restaurant are delicious, but the not-over salted, freshly made tortilla chips and salsa (not the Pace kind) are probably the best. Usually we fill up on chips and salsa and end up taking most of our main courses home. What’s crazy is the money people would spend at Taco Bell for a meal they can get for the same price or cheaper! For dessert, we always go to La Gloria Bakery to fill up a box full of pastries for $5. (Seriously, their apple turnovers are the size of a soft ball and only $1.00!) Even if it’s not Cinco de Mayo, Mexicantown is a great place to visit on a weekend because many of the restaurants have mariachi or salsa bands for entertainment.
Closer to the Ambassador Bridge, people can also visit St. Anne’s Church. The church was founded in 1701, the same year ville de’troit was also established. St. Anne’s is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and remains the second oldest Roman Catholic Church in the nation. The stained glass, murals, and the architecture of the church are breath taking! Visitors can also check out the progress happening at the Michigan Central Station just a few blocks from the heart of Mexicantown. Recently, new windows were put in the bottom wings of the structure, and slowly but surely, pieces of this project are coming together.
Previously divided by I-75, Mexicantown now has a bridge over the expressway to connect the communities together, which has helped it grow and prosper. Over the past decade, new housing continues to grow, new businesses open, and street traffic increases. Community Centers continue to open while others close around the city, offering residents a place to showcase their culture and art. Dark brick buildings are giving way to colorful murals brightening up the streets and welcoming new visitors. Positive changes are happening in Mexicantown, and this small corner of Detroit is much cleaner and safer than I remember it as a kid, which gives me hope for the rest of the city. ~Kristina Schwab