Detroit's First Hispanic City Council Member Has Broad Appeal

A change from citywide to district elections for City Council seats paved the way for Detroit to get its first Hispanic council member, Raquel Castañeda-López, 32, according to the Detroit Free Press.

District 6, which Castañeda-López represents, more than 41,000 district residents who are Latino, about the same number are African-American, and just under 20,000 are white, the newspaper reported.

Clearly, she could not have won on Hispanic votes alone. Though she did best among Latino voters, she got strong support from other ethnic groups to defeat Isaac Robinson for the District 6 seat.

“Anyone who tried to run on race and ethnicity, no way is going to win,” she said.

Castañeda-López grew up in southwest Detroit, the third of eight siblings. This was her first run for office, but she isn't exactly a political novice.

In 2008, she ran Rashida Tlaib’s successful 2008 campaign for the state legislature and has a long history of grassroots organizing.

Castañeda-López relied on old-fashioned, door-to-door campaigning. The newspaper described her campaign headquarters as a “modest, standalone building on West Vernor Highway with faded signs for the Mexicantown Community Development Corp.” that had “handwritten grids with a checklist of tasks for each of the district’s voting precincts were taped to the walls.”

According to the Free Press, Castañeda-López carried four precincts in which blacks make up 90 percent of the residents.

Castañeda-López said  she intends to serve all communities in her district. “Yes, I’m bilingual. Yes, I’m Latina. Those are definitely strengths.” But, she has said. “that’s not going to make me a successful councilperson.”

Former Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel said the diversity of the district will be both an opportunity and a challenge for Castañeda-López. “She’s going to have a big job,” Cockrel told the newspaper. “She’ll be responsible for a varied constituency, from downtown high-rises ... to Mexicantown.”

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