I was not sure what to expect upon first stepping into Plaza Mariachi on Nolensville Road. I had heard it was an Hispanic culture center. I had heard it was a Latin mall and food court. The answer, it turns out, is that Plaza Mariachi is a bit of both. And much more. Located in the heart of Nashville’s thriving immigrant corridor, Plaza Mariachi provides a venue for the rich diversity of Hispanic culture. There are Latin American restaurants, clothing stores, and law offices. There’s an art gallery and a dance studio. There’s even an arcade and a radio station. Need a name for it? Call it an anchor for a vibrant community.
I stroll toward Mazfresco, enticed by the smell of fresh-baked bread. At the entrance, a large window reveals a small bakery where cooks daily create churros and other Latin American pastries. Inside, imported foods from sodas to traditional cheeses stock the shelves. Food from home is something that immigrants miss the most, and I am no exception. The welcome sight of a Brazilian soda from my childhood fills me with joy.
“We offer many imported products, especially Venezuelan, that are not available around town,” explains Cristina O. Allen, Plaza Mariachi’s Chief Marketing Officer. “Venezuelan refugees are very emotional when they find them in the store.”
Though created with the needs of the Hispanic community in mind, Plaza Mariachi helps bring all Nashvillians together. Given these tense political times, Plaza Mariachi helps trump xenophobia and ignorance by building bridges across cultures. For example, each weekend, families and friends from a diversity of backgrounds gather around the main stage of the central hall where local groups play Latin music, often accompanied by acrobats and fire dancers. All around, food vendors offer Argentinian-style steaks, Mediterranean gyros, Mexican paletas or traditional street tacos.
“We want to bring out the best of our communities,” states Cristina, “and take away the intimidation to come here. So just grab a seat and enjoy the show.”
You are invited as well. Regardless of your native language or the color of your passport, at Plaza Mariachi, se habla comunidad – here we speak community.