DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — Julio Mateo is part of the 6,200 people who make up Dayton’s Hispanic population. He’s half Spanish and half Puerto Rican, and through his involvement, he’s helping shed light on and support Dayton’s Latino community.
The Twin Towers neighborhood is home to some of Dayton’s Hispanic population.
“That neighborhood is where St. Mary’s is, which is a church that has services in Spanish. It’s also close to Ruskin which has a bilingual program,” says Mateo. “I think there’s a lot more Latinos and Hispanics in the area than people realize.”
A member of The Puerto Rican, American and Caribbean Organization (PACO), Mateo is heavily involved in the community.
“I’m part of the organization of the Hispanic Heritage Festival. So I coordinate the vendors, the food vendors, the merchandise vendors,” says Mateo. “I’m a big fan and closely associated with the Dayton Salsa Project, which is a local band.”
Mateo’s work doesn’t stop with festivals and music. In 2017, he became a part of the Community Police Reform Council, working on cultural competence.
“We want the police to serve the community the way the community wants to be served,” says Mateo.
In the last year, he also became involved in a community driven-ordinance, requiring police to notify the public when new surveillance technology is installed and how it would be used.
“It’s about ensuring that there is transparency and that there is community engagement,” states Mateo.
In addition to better serving the Hispanic community, he also urges people to support Latino businesses.
“There’s a lot of Mexican restaurants. There are all these restaurants that sometimes people don’t realize we have in the area. There’s also a lot of grocery stores like La Michoacana,” states Mateo.
Support and celebration doesn’t stop after Hispanic Heritage month ends, with everything the community and culture has to offer.
“Día de los Muertos is a celebration that happens after the Hispanic Heritage month, but it’s also another local organization. They organize a parade,” says Mateo.