St. Louis mourns Minerva Lopez Montaigne, champion of Cherokee Street
St. Louis lost a pillar of the Cherokee Street community in late June when Minerva Lopez Montaigne died at the age of 60. The Latina entrepreneur helped cement Cherokee Street as a hub for Latino businesses and culture.
“She was like the mayor on Cherokee Street, unofficially,” said Gabriela Ramirez Arellano, the co-host of “We Live Here Auténtico!”
Emily Thenhaus, executive director of the Cherokee Street Community Improvement District, echoed that sentiment.
“Her impact on the street went well beyond her own ventures; she dedicated so much of her 20 years here in St. Louis to others,” Thenhaus said. “I can recall stories of her over the years, speaking out about the importance of the Mexican entrepreneurial community here on Cherokee — and how that grounded so much of the future development of the street.”
Thenhaus added, “She felt strongly that Cherokee Street is, and should always be, ‘Calle Cherokee.’”
Lopez Montaigne helped businesses expand in the neighborhood and established events such as Cherokee Street’s “El Dia de Los Muertos.” She was dedicated to outreach to St. Louis’ Hispanic community during the pandemic — she distributed information in Spanish, including critical vaccine resources, and conducted weekly food drives that served about 200 families per week.
She was also known for her award-winning margaritas and excellent cooking.
“She was a convener, and she was an advocate, but she also wanted to continue to share our Mexican culture,” Ramirez Arellano said. “And a lot of times she did that through food.”
Ramirez Arellano joined Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air to remember the life and work of Lopez Montaigne.
The conversation also featured remembrances from Thenhaus and the owner of Don Carlos Restaurant and Carniceria Latino Americana, Carlos Dominguez.
“[Minerva] was a bridge builder for a lot of Spanish-Mexican business persons,” Dominguez said. “She made us get involved with the community and started everybody mixing and not just thinking about us, but thinking of the street, for all of us — Spanish community and American English speaking community.”
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.