Appalachia has a booming Hispanic business and population — and its growing food scene is making an impact

Mic

"As Hispanic businesses and populations swell, and rural grocery stores begin to stock shelves with everything from queso fresco to bilingual lard containers."

From strip malls to historic downtown landmarks, buildings across Appalachia today are telling stories of a changing region. Former nail salons, once-stately banks and empty storefronts are beginning fresh chapters in their lifecycle as Hispanic business, groceries, Mexican restaurants and Latinx-operated small businesses.

“I never really thought I would be doing this — that I would be able to build my own business in America — but here I am, you know?” said Misael Nuñez, co-owner of Tres Hermanos Nuñez, a small chain of Mexican-Appalachian restaurants.

I spoke to Nuñez in Grayson, Kentucky, as he watched his daughter gallop around his restaurant, dressed to impress in a Cinderella costume. His restaurants are located in a tight corridor of the region where southeast Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky meet, and Nuñez is a prime example of the rise in Latinx entrepreneurship in the region. But he’s not only a businessman: Nuñez is among the leaders helping to construct a new narrative of Hispanic-Appalachian culture in places that are often portrayed by national media outlets as sweepingly white and homogenous.

The Hispanic population boom began in the 1980s, when the percentage of immigrants who moved into Appalachia between 1985-1990 made up a whopping 34% of the region’s total Hispanic population in the 1990 census. Between 2000 and 2010, the numbers continued to soar, with a 121% overall increase in the Hispanic population region-wide. And in some states like Tennessee, the numbers have been even more staggering: The number of Latinx-Appalachian residents there increased nearly 145% in the same time frame, compared to states like Ohio and New York, which showed roughly 52% and 53% increases, respectively.

READ MORE

Subscribe today!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Must Read

Appalachia has a booming Hispanic business and population — and its growing food scene is making an impact

Victor Landa August 1, 2018

From strip malls to historic downtown landmarks, buildings across Appalachia today are telling stories of a changing region. Former nail salons, once-stately banks and empty storefronts are beginning fresh chapters […]

US officials must now say “illegal aliens,” not “undocumented immigrants”

Victor Landa July 27, 2018

The US Department of Justice wants US attorneys offices to stop referring to undocumented immigrants, the term that media and immigrant advocates have increasingly used to refer to people who […]

Audiences are shrinking for Hispanic- and black-oriented U.S. news media

Victor Landa August 1, 2018

In a fact sheet released this week, Pew looks at how “news media made by and for the two largest racial/ethnic minority groups in the United States — blacks and Hispanics” […]

Declining white population is spawning fears, bias

Victor Landa July 23, 2018

Over the last three decades, demographers have told us that there would come a day when the declining white population would become less than half of the U.S. population. The […]

Today’s Latino News Headlines – August 7, 2018

Victor Landa August 7, 2018

Black Man Who Filmed Latino Workers Striking Is Fired from His Job, Regrets Nothing – The Root Remeber this guy with the running commentary from yesterday’s headlines? He recorded a group of Latino […]

Today’s Latino News Headlines – July 27, 2018

Victor Landa July 27, 2018

Census Bureau Stops Plans For 2020 Census Advisory Committee – NPR According to the letter provided by Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed […]

Today’s Latino News Headlines – 8/27/18

Victor Landa August 27, 2018

Today’s Latino news headlines, curated for the NewsTaco community: Irony: I saw this movie this past weekend and the plot is archetypal telenovela. It’s like a Selena song. ‘Crazy Rich” […]

Latino millennials least likely to identify as heterosexual, survey finds

Victor Landa July 24, 2018

Latino millennials are the least likely millennials to identify as heterosexual, according to the GenForward Survey project at the University of Chicago. The organization’s recent report, “Millennial Attitudes on LGBT Issues: Race, […]