Originally settled by European immigrants in the late 1800’s, Milwaukee welcomed its first Spanish-speaking immigrants in the 1920’s. An area known as Walker’s Point on the city’s near south side became the center of the Latino community and this community has grown to become a major contributor to the city’s cultural diversity ever since. The Latino population in metro Milwaukee has more than tripled since 1990, and now totals 160,000, or slightly more than 10 percent of the region’s total population. Latinos make up the largest minority group in the state of Wisconsin.
The South Side
Milwaukee's Latino residents hail from nearly every Spanish-speaking country on the globe, including Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Cuba, as well as Latin countries throughout Central and South America. The vibrant Latino neighborhood just south of downtown Milwaukee is dominated by urban residential areas that include many small family-owned retail shops, art galleries, historic religious churches, and ethnic restaurants.
Founded in the late 1960’s, the United Community Center is known throughout the nation and serves more than 18,000 residents of the Latino community per year with its wide range of social and educational programs and services. It is also the home of Latino Arts, a program dedicated to presenting visual arts, theater, and music by Latin American artists in its gallery and auditorium. Latino Arts regularly hosts internationally renowned professional dance troupes and legendary musical artists like Jose Feliciano, Celia Cruz, and Tito Puente.
One of the largest festivals of its kind in the nation, Mexican Fiesta brings an authentic south-of-the-border experience to the 75-acre lakeside Maier Festival Park over a three-day weekend in August each year. Mouth-watering food, rousing mariachi bands, and an elaborate swirl of traditional dancers delight visitors. The cultural pavilion showcases the history and traditions of Mexican and Latin cultures and their influence in Milwaukee neighborhoods.