How to Support San Diego’s Latino-Owned Businesses Right Now
It’s easy to do in San Diego.
It’s impossible to think about the city of San Diego without recognizing the contributions of its Latino-owned businesses. In fact, San Diego -- as well as the rest of California, Nevada, Utah, most of Arizona and parts of New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming -- were Mexico less than 175 years ago, so we recognize the vast economic, cultural, and historical impact that the Latino community has had on our city. In their honor, we have gathered just a few of the many, many Latino-owned businesses and services that are the heart and soul of America’s Finest City.
Accion Serving Southern California
Accion Serving Southern California is a microlender supporting entrepreneurs with accessible financing and resources to create and develop healthy, prosperous businesses. Because it specializes in smaller loan sizes, they are often able to lend to business owners who may have trouble finding loans from conventional lending institutions.
How to support: Apply for a loan online or donate to ASSC here.
National Latina Business Women Association
Established in 2004, the National Latin Business Women Association helps to meet the needs of Latina entrepreneurs, executives, and professionals through business networking, membership programs & benefits for its members. Memberships are available for Students/Veteran, Professionals and Small Businesses from $47-150/year.
How to support: Join online.
The Chicano Federation
The Chicano Federation provides aid to families across socioeconomic, geographic, and ethnic lines, including refugees who are seeking a safe and stable environment for their children. Child development programs include home-based support for parents of children 0-5, infant and toddler child care services, a child development center in Barrio Logan, and a child nutrition program. Other services include a housing program with below market rentals and a workforce and business development program.
How to support: Investigate employment opportunities, become a child care partner, buy some swag or donate.
North County Immigration and Citizenship Center
Formed in 2013 by members of Solana Beach Presbyterian Church, North County Immigration and Citizenship Center provides assistance to immigrants who need support with the network of legal processes and cultural pathways to becoming US citizens. As Department of Justice Accredited Representatives authorized to practice immigration law, the organization aids in filling out and processing legal documents and applications, provides tutoring in citizenship and helps candidates prepare for US history and civics tests and naturalization interviews, as well as ESL tutoring.
How to support: Become a volunteer and/or donate.
Restaurants and bars
Owner/chef Priscilla Curiel’s tiny yellow taco shop just this side of the border in San Ysidro had barely opened its doors when she started getting rave reviews both locally and nationally, including a glowing article in Food & Wine. One bite of her slow-braised, succulent birria with tuétano (a thick hunk of roasted marrow bone) and you’ll know why. Besides tacos, tortas and quesadillas, the shop offers frequent specialty items like flautas or chile en nogada, as well as collaborations and pop up events with other local restaurants. And yes, you’ll want to pick up a jar or two of that addictive salsa macha to take home and put on everything you eat.
How to support: Order by texting 619-856-7030 with your name and payment via Cash App or Venmo.
Cuscatlan Salvadorian Cuisine
Ismael Alvarenga, owner of Cuscatlan Comida Salvadoreña, fled the civil war in his native El Salvador in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until the early 2000s that he was able to realize his dream of opening his own restaurant. Appetizers like tamalitos de elote con crema (corn tamales) and pasteles de pollo (fried pies stuffed with chicken) shine -- and more than a dozen varieties of pupusas are a must-try, as are the guisados, mojarra frita (whole fried fish), and camarones picoso (shrimp in spicy sauce).
How to support: Call 760-291-1225 for in-house dining, takeout, or delivery.
Las Cuatro Milpas
Las Cuatro Milpas may be most famous for the long line that stretches out the door every day, and it’s been that way ever since Petra and Nati Estudillo opened in 1933. The menu is short and you’ll want one of everything, but definitely get tacos -- they come in chicken or pork on freshly made tortillas, regular style, and rolled -- along with sides of rice and beans. Other standouts are tamales, burritos, chorizo con huevo and menudo, which is served on Saturdays only. This is Mexican comfort food at its finest, simple, savory and satisfying. The spot is cash only, and don’t wait too long for the line to die down -- it closes at 3pm.
How to support: Get in line.
Border X Brewing
San Diego's first Latino-owned and operated brewery, Border X, is truly a family endeavor, founded by brothers David and Marcelino Favela and Marcelino’s two sons, Marcel and Martin. Rather than trying to duplicate the flavor profiles of European beers, they instead drew inspiration from traditional Latin flavors, first coming up with the flagship Blood Saison, a ruby red beauty rich with tart hibiscus flowers. The brewery soon expanded to Horchata Golden Stout, Abuelita’s Chocolate Stout, and a half -dozen others, earning it a 2020 James Beard Semifinalist nomination along the way. Their newest project is a partnership with Mujeres Brew Club to open Mujeres Brew House, a taproom in the former Alta Brewing space on Julian Avenue on October 1.
How to support: Stop by for a beer and some tacos.
Brothers Miguel Angel and Jorge Fernandez serve some of the most delicious Tijuana-style birria on either side of the border, slowly stewing it overnight into a soul-satisfying mélange of beef, chiles, and spices. Order it by the bowl for self-assembly with the accompanying fresh corn tortillas, radishes, cilantro, onions, and chile de árbol salsa -- or get it already tacoized in a birria oil-fried tortilla, and do give it a dunk a cup of their heavenly consomme. Top it with succulent nervio (tendon) or choose chupacabra, gently fried tortillas, onions, serrano chiles, and melted queso under a bed of birria. And if tres leches cake is on the menu, you want that too. Plan to go early -- the spot is only open 7am-2pm Wednesday through Sunday.
How to support: Walk up or call 619-628-8235 for takeout.
Retail and other businesses
Founder and owner Elexia de la Parra started her vibrant company as a stall at the La Jolla farmers’ market before moving into a brick and mortar shop in Little Italy, finally settling in the artsy community of North Park. Specializing in unique, hand-crafted Mexican gifts, art, gourmet foods, and home decor, she also hosts cultural workshops and community events, including the first-ever Day of the Dead Festival in North Park. For every purchase made, Artelexia donates a portion to Fundación En Via, a nonprofit that provides no-interest loans and education to female entrepreneurs of the Oaxaca Valley region of Mexico.
How to support: Visit the North Park store, or shop online (shipping is a flat $5).
Lifelong friends Aida Soria and Syncletica Maestas started their swimsuit shop, Hola Swim, on a dare from Soria to Maestas because they could not find suits that they actually loved and enjoyed wearing. Their designs are made to be multifunctional, moving seamlessly from day to night or beach to brunch. Hola Swim signature swimsuits are designed and produced entirely in San Diego and have been featured in Vogue Paris and Cosmo Latina.
How to support: Shop online.
Combine & Create
Vanessa Alcaraz is a multimedia artist who creates hand-forged, metal-smithed jewelry in sterling silver and pure brass, combined with ethically mined gemstones, antique coins. and beads. She is also a commercial art direction photographer and has worked with area restaurants, retail stores and landscaping companies, social media platforms, and online shops.
How to support: Visit the website for art direction and Etsy shop for jewelry.
Entertainment and recreation
San Diego Latino Film Festival
The San Diego Latino Film Festival has gone virtual with an 11-day festival of Latino cinema, arts and culture from September 17-September 27. More than 100 films from Latin America, the United States, and Spain -- as well as live virtual Q&A sessions with filmmakers -- are included.
How to Support: Purchase individual tickets or festival passes online for the festival, or donate anytime.
Chula Vista (temporarily)
Al Gavi, founder of Comedy Heights, along with co-producer Maria Herman, host San Diego’s premiere free comedy showcase every Friday evening at Bay Bridge Brewing in Chula Vista. The show features a diverse mix of headliners and new talent in a clean show that’s always standing room only. Their usual venue is Twiggs Bakery and Coffeehouse in University Heights, but they’ve moved temporarily to Bay Bridge Brewing for safe, socially distant fun. The show is free with no minimum, but a donation hat gets passed at the end of the show.
How to support: Catch a show and tip generously.
Local favorites B-Side Players fuse rock, jazz, funk, and hip-hop rhythms, adding in a splash of street samba, cumbia, jarocho and son montuna, and layering in the sounds of Brazil, Jamaica, Cuba, and Mexico. The band’s lyrics address social issues like racism, political corruption, and the hardships of undocumented workers. Founded by frontman Karlos Paez in 1994, the band has garnered 10 San Diego Music Awards, including Best World Album in 2009 and Best World Music in 2010 and 2011.
How to support: Follow them on streaming services, visit their website, and buy some swag.
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