PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — One in 10 Portlanders is of Hispanic or Latino heritage — and as we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we take a closer look at a place where Latino culture and entrepreneurship thrive.
Fernando Rodriguez’s second home is Fernando’s Alegria. It’s one of 8 food carts and 12 indoor markets at the Portland Mercado — which is the city’s first Latino public market.
“It feels like a community,” Rodriguez, who is originally from Mexico, said. “It means a lot for us immigrants to come here and feel like we’re not alone. It’s a bunch of people from our Latin countries.”
Established in 2015 by the non-profit Hacienda CDC, the Portland Mercado is a gathering place and a cultural hub. It’s also where businesses grow with the help of federal, state and local funding. Retailers get below-market rents and business advice.
“We’re really focused on entrepreneurship, especially Latino entrepreneurship,” Shea Flaherty Betin, the Mercado’s director, told KOIN 6 News. “Most think of us as the 8 colorful food carts on Southeast Foster, and the cultural indoor market hall — but really, it’s an incubator.”
Portland Mercado works with more than 50 businesses a year, some offsite.
Anyone can use the community commercial kitchen for special event catering or to develop new tastes and flavors. It’s also home to big events.
Some Mercado products have already found their way into stores and supermarkets.
All Portlanders can enjoy Latino food and culture from countries as diverse as Columbia, Cuba, Haiti and Argentina.
Antony Benegas is from Puerto Rico and the chef at El Coquí.
“A lot of Latinos come from all over Oregon to meet here because for me, it’s the only place I really sense a real community,” he said.
“We just encourage people to come out and keep engaging us as a community — building those bridges because that’s what we’re all about,” Flaherty Betin added.
The Portland Mercado is located at Southeast 72nd and Foster.