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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Nolensville Pike: Celebrating Music City’s Hispanic heritage

As Hispanic Heritage Month unfolds, step into the world of Music City’s thriving Hispanic culture along Nolensville Pike, where Hispanic stories and traditions come to life.
Zarrin Zahid
Graphic depicting a Nolensville Pike street sign with representations of Hispanic culture around it. (Hustler Multimedia/Zarrin Zahid)

When people think of Nashville, they think of country music, cowboy boots and hot chicken. In reality, this stereotype is just a glimpse into the culture of Music City. With the country’s largest Kurdish population and 12% of its residents being foreign-born, Nashville is made up of a wide array of cultures and backgrounds. 

As a matter of fact, just a 15-minute drive from campus, you’ll find Nolensville Pike, a bustling hub of immigrant-owned businesses and a thriving community that adds an exciting twist to the citys cultural landscape. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, I sat down with three members of the Vanderbilt community to discuss their experiences being Hispanic at Vanderbilt and the role that Nolensville plays in shaping their journeys. 

Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology Rebeca Gamez provided a unique perspective on the Latinx presence within Nashville. 

“People always think Latinidad in Nashville is new, but it’s always had a presence, and it’s certainly been growing in the last 30-35 years,” Gamez said.  

As the daughter of Mexican immigrants and an immigrant herself, Gamez discussed her complicated relationship with Latinidad and how she came into it. 

“Your parents wish to assimilate as much as possible and so it’s like, ‘How do we melt into American culture such that we’re not seen as outsiders?’’’ Gamez said. 

Over the years, though, Gamez explained that she has delved deeply into this complex identity through her research and work, striving to change the narrative of what Latinidad means. Further exploring her identity in Nashville, Gamez has paid a few visits to our near and dear Nolensville, which she says is a cultivator of an ethno-racial community in the city.

“I have ventured out to the panaderia [bakery in Spanish] to get my conchas, and I’ve been to Plaza Mariachi,” Gamez said. “Actually, a lot of my entry points with Nolensville have been through food. Food is such a big part of Latinidad, you can’t just ignore it. When I go on that [Nolensville] strip, it’s interesting to see how you can have a carniceria [butcher shop in Spanish] close to a Vietnamese pho shop.” 

Plaza Mariachi, as photographed on Jan. 21, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Daniela Aguilar) (Daniela Aguilar )

Vincent Castillo, a sophomore, and Davie Morales-Miranda, a graduate student in Peabody College’s Higher Education Leadership and Policy program, share similar sentiments about what it’s like to be Hispanic in Nashville.

“Being Hispanic is extremely important to me — it’s not something that I can just hide,” Morales-Miranda said. “I’m a native Spanish speaker, and I’m brown. These are things I carry with me everywhere I go.” 

The two students also emphasize the significance of connecting with their roots through academic pursuits. 

“My professors allow me to delve deeper into my coursework about what higher education access looks like for Latinos in Middle Tennessee,” Morales-Miranda said. “In my qualitative methods class, we’re working with a CBO [Community-based organization] that specifically works with immigrant communities, and I’m really happy that our faculty allows us to do that.” 

Castillo has also explored his heritage academically through the class ANTH 2380W: Latinx and Afro-Latinx Ethnographies: The (Un)making of Latinades, which he is taking with Gamez this semester.

To further embrace their heritage, Morales-Miranda and Castillo have ventured beyond the Vanderbubble and into spaces of cultural exchange. One such place is Bucanas, a lively Latin dance club on Nolensville Pike, which holds a special place in Castillo’s heart. 

“Bucanas is definitely a cultural affirmation for me because it was the first time in a while that I saw so many Latinos gather to party and have fun,” Castillo said. “It reminded me of the parties I would go to as a kid where I would fall asleep at the table at 3 a.m. Now that I’m older and the one doing the partying, I have a much deeper appreciation for communal nightlife and the connections I’ve made through it.”

Bucanas Night Club, as photographed on Sept. 2, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Daniela Aguilar) (Daniela Aguilar )

While Morales-Miranda has yet to pay a visit to Nolensville and its cultural treasures, he shares the anticipation of discovering more about the vibrant Latinx culture in Nashville. 

“I’ve heard that Nolensville is very fun, so I look forward to going,” Morales-Miranda said. “We don’t have any authentic Latino supermarkets in the Midtown area, so that’s something I look forward to exploring.”

These insights from Castillo and Morales-Miranda highlight the multifaceted ways in which Nolensville Pike fosters a sense of belonging and connection among Latinx individuals at Vanderbilt and the greater Nashville area. 

As I delved into the stories of Profesor Gamez, Castillo and Morales-Miranda, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own experiences with Nolensville. From attending cultural showcases to indulging in taco truck delights, Nolensville has become essential to my friends’ and my Vanderbilt experience. It’s where we’ve gathered for nights out, found comfort in the familiar flavors of our culture and created lasting memories. These moments feel especially valuable during Hispanic Heritage Month, a concept Morales-Miranda emphasized. 

“Hispanic Heritage Month is a time I take to celebrate the contributions that Hispanics and Latinos have made to this country,” Morales-Miranda said. “It allows cultural exchange to happen in a more structured way such that those who are interested in sharing Latino culture can share it with folks. Those who may not know much about it can learn more because at the end of the day, being Hispanic has always been about inclusivity.”

During this Hispanic Heritage Month, join us in celebrating and experiencing the authentic tastes and rhythms of Nolensville Pike — you won’t regret it.

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About the Contributors
Daniela Aguilar
Daniela Aguilar, Life Editor
Daniela Aguilar (‘26) is a student in Peabody College double majoring in human and organizational development and economics with a minor in data science. When not writing for The Hustler, you can find her thrifting, working on a crossword puzzle or watching a video essay. You can reach her at [email protected].
Zarrin Zahid
Zarrin Zahid, Staff Writer and Graphics Staffer
Zarrin Zahid (‘26) is a student in the College of Arts and Science majoring in law, history and society and minoring in Islamic studies. Besides The Hustler, she enjoys writing stories, cooking and watching bad horror movies unironically. She can be reached at [email protected].
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