A new market with familiar foods

Latinos Market expansion highlights culturally specific food options

Jesse Lemus opened Latinos Market in May of 2017 after noticing the demand for grocery products from his parents’ combination restaurant and market, Café Mercadito Latino. After a year of operation, he is opening a second location in the Polo Park/St. James neighbourhood.

“Compared to other Canadian cities, (operating a Latin food market) can be a little more difficult because our (Latinx) community is smaller,” Lemus says.

He estimates the Latinx population in Winnipeg is around 25,000 people and says there are growing communities in places like Brandon and Winkler.

Lemus says people who travel to Latin America are a big part of the store’s business.

“They try a dish that they like, and they want to recreate it at home,” Lemus says. “So that’s when people look for the good-quality tortillas and cheese and crema, which is like sour cream, and all the ingredients that you need to create an authentic Latin American dish.”

Lemus says Latinos Market has also been successful because it carries a diverse range of products.

“We do really try to bring products from every Latin American country. We’re not just specified in Mexican, we’re not just specialized in Brazilian – it’s literally starting all the way from Mexico to the end of Argentina, so I think that’s what really has helped,” he says.

“I constantly see people come into the store and literally yelling or shouting or screaming of happiness,” Lemus says. “Lots of people have told me, ‘We’re so thankful for Latinos, because we do have our food. We don’t miss it anymore, we don’t need to travel anymore just for the food. We can access it here.’”

John Cortes, president of Hispanic Association of Manitoba, Inc., says there are growing Latinx communities in Manitoba. He adds Latin American-owned businesses can play an important role in challenging anti-Latinx racism and “keeping (Latinx) roots alive.”

Cortes says his son “still remembers the candies that he ate in his childhood, and he still remembers the flavours and the small traditions that mean the roots, so that is important for a community, so we are not losing that small things that are really significant for us.”

Cortes says Latinos Market is also known for not just importing products, but also working with local Latinx business owners, such as a Latina artist who makes piñatas and lives in Brandon.

Lemus says Latinos Market also offers private and public Spanish and Portuguese lessons, and the new location will have a wall dedicated to highlighting events in the Latin American community.

The grand opening of Latinos Market’s second location will take place from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Nov. 10 at 1769 Portage Ave. Lemus says the festivities will include a DJ, chances to win prizes and promotions on many of the store’s items.

Published in Volume 73, Number 9 of The Uniter (November 8, 2018)

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