GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Memorial arrangements are set for a leader of Grand Rapids’ Latino community.
Martin Morales died Monday from surgery complications. He was 87 years old.
Morales was the owner of the Little Mexico restaurant for nearly 38 years. He also ran for city mayor in 1991.
What many might not know is that Morales was a WWII veteran. He joined the military as a teenager and served on a bomb squad.
Morales also fought for Latino rights. His advocacy during the 1960s Civil Rights era helped advance the hiring of Latino police, firefighters, city administrators and educators. He led protests about unequal distribution of government funds. His voice was pivotal in creating and leading the Latin American Council.
Morales fought for bilingual education and supporting Latino students in public schools. He was also instrumental in getting the first two bilingual teachers hired by Grand Rapids Public Schools in 1971 – Juan Olivarez and Rosanna Rodriguez.
Morales also worked with the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids to foster relationships with farm workers.
Visitation for Morales will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. James Catholic Church on Bridge Street NW in Grand Rapids. Memorial services are scheduled for an hour later at the same church.