Sein Benavides

By La Prensa Staff

LANSING, MI, February 6, 2024: Latino activist Sein Benavides seeks to unite the Latino community in the Lansing area with events and an online presence known as Cafecito Caliente. Now, the retired postal worker, 59, is delivering unity to the Latino community through an online network known as Cafecito Caliente.

“I enjoyed my 34 years. I’d do it again if I had to. I had a good time, met a lot of good people, and had a lot of fun in its own way, he recalled of his overnight shift with the post office. “I have two sons who actually work there now.”

Benavides sees Cafecito Caliente as an “online community center” where Latinos and those wishing to do business with the Latino community can come to learn about events, gatherings, gain contacts, and network. The website also organizes and hosts events such as Latino Day with the Lugnuts, Running La Vida Loca 5K race series, and an awards ceremony that helps kick off Hispanic Heritage Month.

Benavides writes all the website’s articles, offering event promotion, business networking, and celebrating the accomplishments of individual Latinos. Benavides is Latino Leadership Network and Latino Business Conexion of Michigan.

He founded Cafecito Caliente in 2012.

“I thought we could become somewhat of a virtual hub, almost like a Hispanic center, a Latino community center,” he said of the website. “If I could connect, just become a really good networker, then I could learn where all the resources were and just basically point to them or connect people to them.”

Benavides knew the growing Latino community would become a hot commodity in the marketplace and that he could make connections on Linked In. He used both to become the resource link for Lansing-area Latinos. That avocation, over time, became a vocation for him, after simply setting out to connect kids to scholarship opportunities, adults to job listings, and other types of help.

“We try to combine technology with the old ways, try to reinvent the Latino community,” he explained, noting that in-person networking and meeting other people is a key ingredient in the website’s success. “We don’t fight here. We all in the Lansing community pretty much get along. I’m the connector who can connect that younger generation to the ideas of the old and try to bring back some of those traditions.”

Benavides has big plans for 2024 and beyond. He’s trying to honor Latino military veterans on his website. He hopes to do a Latino equivalent to Restaurant Week during Hispanic Heritage Month to build on promoting Latino-owned restaurants on his site with pictures of their food.

He hopes to build on Latino Day with the Lugnuts by also bringing busloads of Latino leaders from every urban region in Michigan to the Detroit Tigers Fiesta de Tigre and hold a networking event alongside it.

“I ended up in spaces where I didn’t realize I would end up,” he said. “I even now run a Latino softball league.”

COVID and his connections provided an opportunity to make a big difference professionally. $4 million worth of government assistance had gone out to businesses suddenly struggling because of COVID-related closures and regulation—but not one penny had reached ones that were Latino-owned and operated.

“The organization that handed out that funding recognized they had a huge problem,” he said. “Any of the underserved populations really didn’t get that much money—veterans or others.”

The organization found Benavides and his website through Google and hired him to help remedy the situation. Benavides ended up with a contract to identify qualified Latino businesses and get them to fill out paperwork necessary to obtain COVID relief funding. Through that process, he learned about and met with various business associations throughout the Lansing community who now see him as their “go-to guy” when they need to reach Latino business leaders.

“We’ve been responsible for about $550,000 going back into Latino-owned businesses,” he said.

Now the Cafecito Caliente website boasts over 200 Latino-owned businesses, restaurants, service professionals and even Tejano bands in an online directory. There are an estimated 12,000 to 14,000 Latinos who now live in greater Lansing.

The father of three sons and a daughter recently “fell into” ownership of an iconic ice cream shop that’s nearing its 75th anniversary in business, making it the oldest in the area. The shop was previously owned by a longtime friend he had met in the management program for a pizza chain.

“He could not find a buyer. He had people meeting his price, but they wanted to tear it down because that part of the city needed some parking,” he explained. “He didn’t want to be the one who let the ice cream shop go.”

What started as Benavides joking that he would buy it, ironically, turned to reality.  That purchase led to his hasty retirement from the post office and conversion to seasonal business owner. He promotes the ice cream shop using his self-taught social media skills, while also advising other business owners using what he’s learned. He rarely works behind the counter, instead employing young people in what’s become a quasi-workforce development program.

“My son told me I like to work with youth programs and now I have one again,” he joked.

Benavides employs high school students at the shop, but also tries to teach them life skills as part of their employment. One recent Saturday featured a session with a local credit union leader teaching a financial literacy workshop. His incentive for the students to attend on their own time was the promise of a crisp, new $100 bill. More workshops are planned: one on how to buy a car and another on career choices, among others.

In essence, he’s teaching soft skills through soft-serve (ice cream). He’s now hoping to develop it into a formal youth program that a church or nonprofit will run.

His parents are former migrant farm workers from south Texas who moved to mid-Michigan in 1955 seeking a better life. The couple stayed involved in the community through Lansing’s Crista Rey church and community center. His father was also involved in the UAW while working for General Motors.

“They always just believed in helping people,” said Benavides of his parents influence on him.

Benavides ran youth programs for a decade at his church, which led to running afterschool Latino clubs at three Lansing high schools—all of it as a volunteer. Little did he know where all of that experience would lead him in Lansing.

Visit Cafecito Caliente online at