(Photo Courtesy of Ballet Folklorico Ollin) Dancers from the Northeast Valley’s Ballet Folklorico Ollin are Performing for Latino Heritage Month and will perform at the Ford Theater in A Tribute to Juan Gabriel on Sept. 24.

This week kicks off a month-long celebration of Latino culture and history – officially

beginning on Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 – it coincides with Latin American and Spanish-speaking countries that celebrate their independence days in the middle of this month.

Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua all celebrate their independence on Sept. 15.

Mexico celebrates its independence starting on the evening of Sept. 15 with El Grito de Dolores and the reenactment of the uprising led by the parish priest Father Miguel Hidalgo who rang his church bell and the cry for independence from Spain, which is celebrated on Sept. 16 with large celebrations on both sides of the border.

Independence for Chile is celebrated on Sept. 18, and Belize on Sept. 21. El Día de la Raza is observed on Oct. 12, celebrated instead of Columbus Day, and recognizes the fusion of both indigenous and Spanish heritage.

Moreover, the month-long celebration in the USA commemorates how Latinos as a diverse people, indigenous to the Americas, with roots in two countries, have been the backbone of the United States for generations.

From building the railroads in the 1870-1930, the “Traqueros” Mexican Railroad Workers in the United States across the Midwestern/Western United States were the dominant immigrant labor force working on tracks in the Southwest by the turn of the 20th century, which continued with a Chicano labor force which contributed mightily to the socioeconomic development of the Southwest — to the history of coal mining, agribusiness and every form of manufacturing and profession today, Latinos have contributed historically and mightily each year to the US economy.

Latino entrepreneurs are thriving and are currently the fastest growing in the USA. Latino-owned businesses contribute more than $500 billion each year to the US economy, according to a Stanford University study. The Stanford study indicates a 14 percent average revenue growth for Latino businesses outpacing the growth of the US economy.

City of San Fernando is an Example of Growing Latino Businesses

The city of San Fernando is an example of old and new Latino businesses that have established themselves in the city’s downtown mall and throughout this independent city. The list of Latino businesses in this small town is significant.

Some of these businesses have been handed down generation to generation, while others have opened their doors for the first time.

However, what they share in common is their will to succeed.

Joeleene and Miguel Medina opened up the Truman House Tavern in San Fernando’s Mall in 2018. There was no way to predict that businesses across the globe would be at a standstill just a year after they started their new business in 2018. While many small businesses didn’t survive the impact of COVID-19, after being able to reopen, the husband and wife team are working hard after experiencing the impact of the pandemic.

“It’s hard to explain, but it’s just what you do,” said Medina. “I grew up in San Fernando and that’s what I grew up seeing — small Mom and Pop shops with people working hard.”

She said creating her own business is a big part of her heritage and natural to her family background.

“My dad immigrated from Mexico when he was 29 and he learned the construction business and started his own company by the time he was in his late 20’s. His dad owned his own watch repair and I watched my parents hustle. He started my brother in the business,” Jolene said. 

“It’s just what you see, and that becomes your own role. My dad’s brothers and sisters always took their skills to the next level with side hustles and had strong work ethics, and they wanted to take [the] opportunity to the limit,” she explained.

The couple first owned the bakery — A Sweet Design in Granada Hills — and after running it for 12 years, sold it in 2017, right before opening the Tavern, the first gastropub of its kind in the small town. 

Medina said, building a place for community to gather was also important for the couple in a space that they could envision and create.

“Miguel is so amazingly talented and he can build anything and as we open up locations, he just designs and builds and our business has our stamp and design concept and we get to build it our way.”

Most recently, they’ve opened Bodevi Wine & Espresso Bar on San Fernando Road, next door to the Tavern.

“I’ll say it a million times about opening up in the city of San Fernando, we couldn’t see doing it any other way, but in this community. We love it and in the Latino culture, that’s what you do to support each other — it’s embedded in the culture,” said Medina.

“We’re struggling at times, it is a challenge and you don’t take anything for granted, but it’s just about resilience and adapting to a new way,” she said.