Latinx Business Alliance hosts inaugural Hispanic Heritage Month celebration


Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

Residents look at informational stands at the Evanston Latinx Business Alliance’s first annual Hispanic Heritage Month celebration. The event featured food, activities and resource booths at Kamen Park.

Kristina Karisch, Web Editor

To kick off Hispanic Heritage Month, the Evanston Latinx Business Alliance hosted the city’s first annual celebration in Kamen Park, complete with informational stands and local food vendors.

The event, which drew dozens of local residents, focused on making the alliance visible to the community and celebrating Latinx heritage by showcasing local businesses.

Ana Vela, co-founder of Amanecer Breakfast Tacos, said the alliance wants to inform the community about Latinx business owners in Evanston and enable “those that are interested in supporting the diverse community to know who these businesses are.”

The alliance began meeting last December, said Evanston economic development specialist Paulina Martínez, who started working for the city a year and a half ago. Martínez said she was inspired by the Black Business Consortium of Evanston/Northshore to get together Latinx business owners for a similar alliance.

Together with Vela and Linda Del Bosque, the editor in chief of Evanston Woman magazine, Martínez grew the alliance to include 20 Latinx-owned businesses in Evanston.

“As a minority woman business owner, it is an honor that the city of Evanston recognizes the need to embrace its Latino community and reinforces the importance of supporting Latino business owners who are thriving here as well as raising their families,” Del Bosque told The Daily in an email.

Vela and Martínez said the Latinx community in Evanston is often not as visible as other minority communities in the city. According to 2010 census data, 9 percent of Evanston residents identify as Hispanic or Latino.

Vela said one of the alliance’s missions is to establish more economic opportunities for Latinx businesses.

“There are some large entities (in Evanston), Northwestern being one of them, that look to contract out to local, diverse businesses,” Vela said. “When we were disbanded, it was hard for (them) to know who we were. Now there will be a very visible source they can easily go to to make these opportunities for us.”

Sunday’s celebration — which lasted from noon to 4 p.m. — was filled with music, food and family activities, but it also coincided with a heated political debate around immigration and minorities in the United States.

Martínez said the timing was unintentional, but people had approached her to say the event was especially relevant after President Donald Trump’s initial announcement threatening to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The Obama-era program helps individuals who entered the U.S. illegally as minors to obtain work permits and avoid immediate deportation.

“(We were) just trying to provide equitable treatment to all of our population,” Martínez said. “We have a lot of energy and a desire to … have a seat at the table. (They want) to be recognized culturally and have their ideas heard.”

Eric Oropeza, owner of Sweet Temptations Bake Shop, 607 Howard St., was one of the featured businesses at the celebration. He said he was glad to reach new customers and that the city was backing the alliance’s work.

As early as 12:15 p.m., 70 people had showed up to support business leaders.

Natalia Polomarkakis, a school social worker in Evanston/Skokie School District 65, heard about the event online and attended with her child.

“Our Latino community sometimes gets overlooked in Evanston,” Polomarkakis said. “We sometimes need people like the organizers to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

This story was updated to clarify that Linda Del Bosque is the editor in chief of Evanston Woman magazine.

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Twitter: @kristinakarisch