By DJ Ramirez | Sports Writer
One of the things I missed most about living in north Houston is that it wasn’t difficult to find good Mexican and Tex-Mex food because there was a restaurant or food truck around every corner. If you needed a new soccer jersey or speakers for your car, all you needed was to head to the Sunnyside and Sabadomingo flea markets on Airline Drive.
Hispanic businesses were all around, and it was easy for me to feel like I was surrounded by my own culture. It reminded me of what life was like when I visited my family in Mexico.
Some of my favorite memories of those visits were spent at my aunt’s papeleria, a stationary shop, at my cousin’s corner store down the street from my grandparents’ house and at the open-air market that took place in the plaza every week.
Living in Southern Louisiana where the Hispanic and Latino population wasn’t quite as large as in Houston was a bit of a culture shock to me.
When I moved to Waco, I thought I would be able to find a similar experience to what I had when I lived in Houston. I figured, “Hey, it’s still Texas,” but I’ve found it difficult to find many places that met my expectations.
And it’s not as if Latino businesses don’t exist here — almost a third of Waco’s population is Hispanic, according to the American Community Survey.
So why does it feel like there is such a disconnect between the Baylor and Hispanic communities?
In the early 1900s, a community of Hispanics settled on the banks of the Brazos River, between Second Street, Jackson Avenue and Interstate 35, according to WacoHistory.org. They called it Sandtown.
There were lots of businesses in Sandtown that included grocery stores, barber shops and night clubs. But in the 1960s when the federal government began its Urban Renewal Project in Waco, the inhabitants of the community were pushed out of the area.
Sandtown may now only exist through photographs and the stories told by the descendants of those that once lived there. But Waco is still home to many Hispanic businesses that, unlike those pushed out by the Urban Renewal Project of the last century, should not be forgotten, but supported.
There are Hispanic businesses all over Waco, and many are not that far off of campus, on La Salle Avenue and on North 25th Street.
There’s La Milpa and Pollo Palenque, as well as, Taqueria Zacatecas, where they don’t just serve tacos, but a variety of other Hispanic foods like quesadillas and elotes.
There’s La Nueva Michoacana ice cream shop on 25th Street and Jimenez Bakery on Dutton Avenue, filled wall to wall with pan dulce.
There’s thriving competition in the tire business as well, with several Hispanic-owned tire shops located all over town.
Supporting these businesses would not only teach a lot of people about the diversity of this town we call home, but it would also help the economy of the city overall.
We need to get out of our bubble and see that Waco has a lot more sabor than what’s right in front of us.