Raquel Castañeda-López, a lifelong Detroiter who grew up in Southwest Detroit, is the first person of Latin American heritage to win a seat on the Detroit City Council. First elected in 2013, Castañeda-López won a new term in the general election on November 7, 2017. Representing District 6, she has been a major presence in conversations on integral issues to the city, like the new Detroit Red Wings arena, the city’s water shut-off program, and the massive influx of tax foreclosures.
Castañeda-López is committed to working for social justice and improving the quality of life of our families. She inherited a strong work ethic and sense of justice from her migrant father, who started life in America as a plasterer with the Plasterer’s Union Local 67 before starting his own small business. Her mother, a rural postal carrier for over 20 years, taught her the importance of honesty and service to the community. Castañeda-López played a vital role in supporting her family, as the 3rd eldest of 8 siblings, after her father’s passing. Her upbringing instilled a commitment to service and a strong sense of social responsibility.
A social worker by trade, Castañeda-López has over ten years of experience in the non-profit sector developing & implementing innovative youth programming, bringing needed resources to our communities. Prior to her election she worked as an adviser and program manager at Wayne State University (WSU) where she helped hundreds of underrepresented students fulfill their dream of earning a college education. She played a pivotal role in establishing supportive service programs for African American and Native American students.
Has served with the Hispanic Latino Commission and the Clark Park Coalition Board, Wayne State University’s Center for Latin American Studies, the Springwells Village College Access Network, and as an intern at Sen. Steve Tobocman’s office. She ran Sen. Rashida Tlaib’s successful 2008 campaign.
Castañeda-López is a first generation college graduate with a Bachelor’s of Social Work from the University of Montana and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan.
One of the biggest challenges is representing a district that’s quite diverse.
“There are just a lot of communities that are on the opposite ends of the spectrum,” she says.
And with the spurt of major growth in downtown Detroit, located in District 6, there’s plenty of work she didn’t foresee when she started. “I never did imagine myself involved in so many conversations around development,” she says.
Castañeda-López’s chief concern in that discussion is a proposed community benefits agreement ordinance, which would be the first of its kind in the U.S. The ordinance would require developers to provide specific benefits to a community through a legally binding agreement for projects that are funded by public money. The community could then take legal action if the developer doesn’t hold up its end of the bargain.
Christina Asquith, “Reviving Detroit: An Interview with Detroit Councilwoman, Raquel Castaneda Lopez“, Solutions, January 2014.
Ryan Felton, “The Unexpected Politician: Raquel Castañeda-López“, Detroit Metro Times, June 10, 2015.