The Latino-American Experience in LaPorte County

In this episode of Discussion Over Dinner, we have a conversation about the rich and varied stories and experiences of Latino-Americans in LaPorte County. LaPorte County has over 7,000 residents that have a history in Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, or South America. Join us as we listen to three LaPorte County residents with Latin American roots tell their stories and share their viewpoints.

Moderator: Nate Loucks
Content: Kelli Tanger
Production: Becky Crain
Video: Jason Clemons
Sound: Mike Warner
Graphics: Alyssa Lingle
Food Service: Joel Crain
Barista: Ellen Cooper, Molly Cooper




Rose Tejeda was born in Michigan City to immigrant parents who emigrated to the US from the Dominican Republic after fleeing the Dominican Republic toward the end of the brutal Trujillo regime. After finding work in Chicago, her parents moved to Michigan City where she was born and became the first American in her family.

She graduated from Elston High School in 1982 not planning on attending college because of financial limitations, but ended up relocating to Bloomington, Indiana with a friend. Being inspired by the education environments, she managed to get enrolled and worked to attend Indiana University and graduated in 1990 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interior Design. She is one of only two people in her family to go to college.

Upon my graduation, she moved to Chicago and found her first job as an interior designer at a retail design firm. She has since held senior design positions and creative director positions at various retail design firms. She is an award-winning and published interior designer. She stayed in Chicago until relocating back to Michigan City four years ago to be closer to her elderly mother.

She currently has a design studio in the Uptown Arts District in Michigan City and serves both residential and commercial clients. She is on the board of directors for the Michigan City Main Street Association, an Ambassador for the Chamber of Commerce, and works as a docent at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts. She also serves on the Michigan City Brand Leadership Team. 



Mario Rosa is a native of the East Chicago-Gary area but his parents, grandmother and four of his siblings immigrated from Puerto Rico. He has served the Hispanic community since the late ’70s where he served as a job developer a program sponsored by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). In 2003, he established El Puente Community Center in LaPorte as a project of Workforce Development Services of South Bend, where he served as director of Individual & Family Resource Services.

He worked for the Michigan City Area Schools as the Community Liaison/English as a Second Language (ESL) coordinator where he received the “Carmen Natal Award” from the Indiana Department of Education, an award given to an individual with exemplary caring and support of ESL students and parents. He was also inducted into the Valparaiso University Social Work Honor Society for his work with the university’s social work students. The late Senator Richard Lugar nominated him to the National Hispanic Leadership conference in Washington D.C.

He currently serves the community as the Family Resource Services Coordinator for the LaPorte Community School Corporation. He has spent much of his life mentoring young people over the last 40 years. He is affectionately and respectfully known in the Hispanic community as “Don Mario.”



Hugo Gonzalez was born in Guadalajara, Mexico. At 17-years old, he was accepted into to medical school, but had to drop out after two-and-a-half years because of financial limitations. Being a gifted soccer player, he moved through the Mexican minor league system to the Mexican major league by 22 years old. In 2003, he was recruited to play soccer at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Indiana where he would eventually meet his wife and LaPortian, Deanne Fritzen. In his three year career at Bethel, he became an NAIA All-American Honorable Mention, Regionally Player of the Year, All-Conference, and Conference Player of the Year. During his senior year, he was accepted to Bethel's MBA program without testing due to his high GPA and notable academic prowess. Five years ago, he accepted a position as an assistant coach for the Bethel University Men's Soccer team. He has also played semi-professionally for the Indiana Invaders soccer club where he has also helped coach.

He started working at Patrick Industries in Elkhart, Indiana in 2006 as a supervisor. After working his way up to a Plant Manager, he was named the Business Unit Director and then Executive Business Unit Director where he is the general manager for many Patrick Industry branches. He also helps develop and train leaders in Patrick Industries' IMPACT Leadership Development Program. 

In 2017, he received his citizenship in the United States of America.