The atmosphere on the outdoor patio of the Holiday Inn Express in Valencia was fun and lively during the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Latino Business Alliance’s Hispanic Heritage Month event Wednesday evening.
Faces were dressed with smiles and laughter while hands held drinks served by local Hispanic-owned businesses like Reyes Winery, Anger Management Tequila and Telco Brewery.
Telco Brewery co-owner Norma Santa Cruz said she really liked how the organizers put together the event.
“It’s always nice to see familiar faces,” she said, noting the Hispanic community in Santa Clarita has grown. “With the association, everybody helps each other.”
Santa Cruz said Telco, located in Valencia, is celebrating its third anniversary during Hispanic Heritage Month, which started Wednesday and runs until Oct. 15.
“We really like that our anniversary is withing the month of Hispanic Heritage Month because we can double celebrate,” she said.
Gloria Mercado-Fortine told The Signal that the she’s seen positive changes in the Latino business community, which she helped to organize with other Latino business leaders into the Latino Chamber of Commerce, the predecessor to the Latino Business Alliance (LBA).
“The fact that it has gotten bigger and better is a real testament to the members and the supporters, like the chamber, who have really lent their support to keep it going,” said Mercado-Fortine, who grew up in the Santa Clarita Valley and served as the first elected Latina in the area.
“I could’ve not imagined that we would be here back then,” she said, reflecting that the city of Santa Clarita’s Hispanic population has grown to account for 30% of the total. “For me it’s a dream come true to have this wonderful Latino community in Santa Clarita.”
Marlon Roa, a Santa Clarita insurance agent, said he had just had a conversation with friends at the event about Dora Zavala, one of the founders and organizers of the Latino Chamber of Commerce 15 years ago.
“She got me involved in this movement and it was her that introduced me to a lot of these people,” he said pointing to the more than 100 people gathered near the hotel pool.
Roa said he’s heartened by the strength of the local Hispanic community.
“Not only that, it’s the new businesses that are coming up and everybody here is giving back and supporting our community,” he said.
Patricia Lara Ladd, a local business consultant, reflected on the growth of the Hispanic business community by recalling the red-carpet galas hosted by the Latino Chamber of Commerce in its early days.
“The most important point (is) that we’re starting to realize the potential of Hispanic buying power and how businesses are growing and growing without control,” she said, noting that members of the local Hispanic community now hold elected office.
Santa Clarita Mayor Bill Miranda and Assemblywoman Suzette Valladares, R-Santa Clarita, both business owners involved in the formation of the local Latino chamber, attended the Hispanic Heritage Month kick-off event.
Valladares said it was exciting to see the strong support in the Latino business community at Wednesday’s event.
“Tonight, to see that even after pandemic, we have an amazing support for our business,” she said. “Our businesses are working on ways to engage with the Latino community, and this chamber helps with that.”