Date Approved


Graduate Degree Type


Degree Name

Social Innovation (M.A.)

Degree Program

Integrative, Religious, and Intercultural Studies

First Advisor

Melanie Shell-Weiss

Academic Year



Recent studies have shown that Latinos have both the highest labor force participation rate of any ethnic group in the state of Michigan, contributing significantly to the state’s economic, cultural, and political strengths. Despite this, Latinos also face significant barriers with respect to education, entrepreneurship, and access to higher paying, “white collar” jobs.[1] There are also significant areas of Latino history and community-development work in Michigan that remain unexplored and undocumented, which detracts from the community’s strengths and resilience. This project aims to address this need by exploring the creation and founding of El Centro Hispano de Oceana County, focusing on the importance of having a dedicated center in this Michigan community. This is the first study to be written about El Centro. Drawing upon oral history interviews, the goal of this study is to help to understand the purpose of the center and barriers encountered by its founders. By bringing together the story of four individuals who realized a need and purpose that only a Latino community center could fulfill for the people in Oceana County, this study also helps to shed light on the struggles and barriers faced by Latinos in Michigan over the 1980s-2000s. Through their work and determination, the founders of El Centro Hispano de Oceana County were able to create a central community resource at a key moment of demographic transition that provides opportunities for employment, access to legal aid, translation support, and one-on-one help to Latinos to this day.

[1] “Michigan’s Latino population has growing pains, report shows,” MSU Today, Aug. 13, 2015,; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Labor Force Participation Rate – Hispanic or Latino [LNS113000009], FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis,, July 25, 2021.