“A Taste of Home” by Steven Tapia

South Carolina has one the fastest growing Latino populations in the country. The latino population includes people from many different countries in South and Central America, each bringing their respective cultures with them. Latin stores or “tiendas” have grown alongside the population in order to meet the demand for the products they enjoyed back home but can’t find in “big-box” grocery stores. These stores offer more than just food, however.

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Stores such as “El Mariachi” (pictured above), La Mexicana, Super Latino, and many others also offer religious objects, traditional decorations, sports apparell and over the counter medication. The stores also offer money trasnfer services that greatly contribute to the economies of the countries they left. All in all these stores serve as places that connect them to their homes and families, they also help keep their cultures and traditions alive for generations that do not have the means to travel and must experience them here.

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Jose Luis Aguirre a native of Mexico awaits his money transfer to go through at “Super Latino” market in Columbia, SC. Markets such as these serve as a one stop shop to buy groceries as well as money transfer services. In 2016, nearly $69 billion were sent back home from immigrants in from Latin-America and the Caribbean. Nearly forty percent was sent to Mexico alone.

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Ricardo Telez restocks the shelves of one the best-selling items; corn tortillas. Telez is the son of the owner of “El Mariachi” located at 1078 Sunset Blvd # 8, West Columbia. The Telez’s have since opened other locations in South Carolina.

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Cristian Mendoza picks out fresh fruit at Coastal Flea Markets, known as “La Pulga” in Ladson, South Carolina. Mendoza is an aspiring filmmaker and photographer who works in the U.S. for a Latino owned painting company. He is saving up to buy gear for his production business in his native Ecuador. He prefers La Pulga over other supermarkets due to the lower costs of produce.

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A necklace depicting “La Santa Muerte” or “Holy Death” hangs among crucifix’s at El Mariachi Mexican store in Columbia, South Carolina. Stores like these function as food markets as well as general stores that sell anything from over the counter medication to religious objects.

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Stores such as “Super Latino” Market in 10171 Two Notch Rd A, Columbia, SC offer many products that cannot be found in other supermarkets. Many beverage brands are country-specific such as “Postobon” and “Colombiana” which are from Colombia. “Topo Chico” and “Jarritos” are from Mexico and growing in popularity with American customers.

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Gerardo Cruz, a Honduran immigrant makes a traditional chicken filling to be used in making tamales at an outdoor market at Coastal Carolina Flea Market. “La Pulga” as it is known to the latin patrons in Ladson, SC features a large food and produce market as well as many rows of vendors.

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Nancy Aguilar, owner of “La Tlaxcalita” Market and Bakery located in 4892 Ashley Phosphate Rd, North Charleston, SC interacts with customers as they await their orders. The store is known for its Mexican baked goods but also offers a deli section as well as money transfer services. Her business has grown alongside the latino population, the majority of her customers are from Central America.

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