Portland Mercado hosts ‘Taste of Latinoamerica’ after break-in

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PORTLAND, Oregon — Want an authentic taste of Latin America? You can get it at Portland Mercado in Southeast Portland. 

They held their yearly festival on Saturday, Taste of Latinoamerica, where everyone in the community was invited to experience rich cultures, eat delicious food and help the mercado recover after a recent break-in left them rattled. 

“The Portland Mercado is a very special place for all the vendors and for all the community,” Portland Mercado director Shea Flaherty Betin said to the crowd when the event kicked off. 

Portland Mercado is a market hall, food cart pod and a cultural center. It is a place where people can come together to share in Latinx art, entertainment, food, vibrant cultures and traditional cuisine. 

It’s purpose is to serve as a business incubator for Latinx entrepreneurs and as an economic development initiative of local nonprofit Hacienda CDC, which provides affordable retail space for business to access space to launch and grow, and potentially create a space of their own. 

“Mercado is kind of like your one-stop shop to experiencing Latin America in Portland,” Flaherty Betin said. 

Full of diversity, Portland Mercado on Southeast Foster Road is a space of acceptance. Unfortunately, it’s also a place of adversity, where business owners and leaders are dealing with the aftermath of a break-in on Wednesday. 

Surveillance video shows two thieves smashing Portland Mercado’s front door around 5:20 a.m. Wednesday. They tried to bust open the ATM, but couldn’t. 

So, they stole the cash box from Que Bacano, a Colombian bakery inside the mercado. Fortunately, they barely had any cash in the box. They’ve learned their lesson because the mercado has been targeted previously. 

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“Luckily it wasn’t a huge loss for the business. But it is a big expense for us this close to our biggest event of the year – which is happening [Saturday] – to have to repair this door,” Flaherty Betin said. “It’s rough. I think the businesses here work really hard and this is just a huge inconvenience. It’s a disruption to the work, it’s disappointing and it’s disheartening.”

“We are the Latino community. We are so special for the city, I believe, and to come and target us is very sad,” said Anthony Banegas said, president of the El Coqui food truck.

Banegas, who serves up Puerto Rican food in his truck, said business owners at the Mercado are family. It’s not just a place where they sell food. 

People like Andrea Chiller, who lives nearby, were eager to show them some love. 

“You just hate to see it. I mean, this is a great space. We watched it develop since they built it here so you just don’t want to see them have any setbacks or deal with sort of senseless crime,” Chiller said. 

Portland Mercado is bouncing back and encouraged by the community jumping to their aid and rallying around them. 

“Our way to bounce back is to do what we know how to do best. It’s to do great food, great customer service and, just more than anything, offer an experience to the community out here,” Banegas added. 

Portland police said they are investigating the break-in and burglary.  

Flaherty Betin said they’ve ramped up security on site. He also told KGW that police told them break-ins just like this are on the rise in the neighborhood, so people need to keep an eye out. 

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“We are living in uncertain, insecure times so it’s what we’re living in now so it’s a constant reality. But people know we can’t lose heart. We have to rally as a community and keep working hard,” Flaherty Betin said.

RELATED: ‘Celebration is a form of resistance’: Portland’s Latinx community celebrates culture in wake of El Paso mass shooting


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