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Club Azteca's legacy in Cleveland to live on thanks to a community effort

This important piece of local history will be preserved.

CLEVELAND — On its exterior, Club Azteca appears to be just a building. But its history in Cleveland holds much more significance than that.

Bella Sin is a part of the Comite Mexicano de Cleveland, an organization that promotes Mexican art and culture in Northeast Ohio. That organization, along with the Young Latino Network and the Cleveland Foundation has partnered to preserve Club Azteca's history and legacy.

"It is important to preserve this history because for so long this history has been buried," said Sin. "This history has not been allowed to come to light because the stories of Latinos, Latinas, Latinx, Chicanos, Mexicanos, individual success in America has never been something that has been allowed to be spoken to about. A lot of us live our lives here invisibly."

Club Azteca in the Gordon Square area is a simple one-story rectangular building but it holds the untold stories and experiences lived by many Mexican and Latino immigrants who settled in Cleveland - from the 1950s to the 2010s - it was a home away from home, hosting Christmas parties, Mexican Independence Day and Cinco de Mayo celebrations. It was a haven where people could organize around political issues and celebrate their native food, language, and music.

"I want everybody to think of a broader term than just the Azteca and the building itself there is a multitude of things that happened there politically that happened there historically that need to be talked about in a broader term. This is not just Mexican history - Chicano history - this is Cleveland Latino History," said Sin.

And when the idea of demolishing the building was presented publicly to Cleveland Landmarks Commission in February - the Latino community rallied together in an attempt to save an important piece of history. 

"When we think of losing these institutions - we think of thousands of people that are going to lose their history and their roots right and understanding how important these little buildings are to us is crucial," said Sin.

Based on the proposed plan for new mixed-use development on the site of Club Azteca, the building will be removed by the end of the year. Sin, along with other community leaders, are working on placing a historical marker at the site, archiving a collection of items including signs, programs and photos, and adding to the archival information available at the Western Reserve Historical Society or other public institutions.  

"One of the things I need to make clear is that nobody owns this history," said Sin. "It is the history of the people that lived it that we are just trying to collect and archive so generations coming, or generations now can have access to that and not feel so invisible in history."

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