A handful of Latino businesses spark more interest in downtown Victoria | Reserved for subscribers

Latin American businesses have seen growing support from the community, business owners in downtown Victoria said Wednesday, a day before major Cinco de Mayo celebrations.

“There are big businesses downtown,” said Krystin Ortiz, 40. “If you have a thriving downtown, you have a thriving city.”

Victoria observes two Cinco de Mayo celebrations downtown on Thursday.

Ortiz, owner of the Santa Rita Market at 107 W. Santa Rosa St., was honored by Victoria City Council on Tuesday night with a Keep Victoria Beautiful award for transforming her business. She sells products from local artists such as woven and leather hats and handbags, earrings and ceramic figurines. Everything is handmade for the store by local artists.

“I feel like when we have small window displays, it grabs people’s attention,” Ortiz said. “When they arrive, they have a personal experience, which is probably the most important thing.”

The Crossroads celebrates Cinco de Mayo

Floutas fresh out of the fryer at the Cinco de Mayo celebration in Victoria in 2016.

She said she was impressed with the support from the local community.

“Victoria is definitely growing as far as I can tell,” Ortiz said. “When you create something more appealing, people want to hang out here.”

Because of the businesses already there, the downtown revitalization makes those workers want to walk around and see what’s here, she said.

On Thursday, the city’s focus is on the Cinco de Mayo celebrations, which are scheduled from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. at DeLeon Plaza. The event is sponsored by Glazer Beer and Beverage. May 5 is a huge day of celebration among Mexican Americans and many Latin Americans living in the United States. Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican victory over the strongest French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. May 5 is usually celebrated primarily in America.

Latino businesses have found a home in the city’s downtown. El Paso Tacos and Tequila manager Andres Mendoza, 25, said he spent four months helping build the business at 212 S. Main St. During that time, he said there was very little foot traffic around.

DeLeon Plaza hosts Cinco de Mayo celebration

“Now we see a lot of people in the afternoon,” Mendoza said. “After 5 p.m. it was dead here, but that has changed.”

Even though the city is only three hours from Mexico, Mendoza said the spicier southern Mexican cuisine at his restaurant gives customers a different taste from Mexican cuisine, which is often Americanized. The restaurant is brightly decorated on both floors with elaborate paintings of skeletal figures similar to Catrinas, Mexican Day of the Dead figures used to celebrate deceased loved ones.

The Latin decorations at the Casa De Luna gift shop at 209 S. Main St. are authentic and handmade, said Chris Melendez, 34. Inside are other statues of Catrinas, who acts as a patron who guides the souls of the dead, she mentioned.

“I get asked a lot of questions about Catrinas,” Melendez said.

We have a proud and rich history of Hispanics at the Crossroads

During the Day of the Dead celebration, which takes place on November 2, Mexican-Americans honor their deceased loved ones, Melendez said.

“It’s just about love and celebration,” she said.

The Moonshine Drinkery, 103 W. Santa Rosa St., has been downtown for a decade, said Genevieve Robles, 42. She is a member of the Victoria Main Street board and said she hopes to see more businesses come to the city centre.

“We have seen an increase in people from outside. A lot of people who live here haven’t been here lately,” she said. “We were trying to get more people here and it worked.”

A lifelong journalist, local government reporter George Coryell loves 1960s muscle cars and guns.

David H. Henry