Image: Often overlooked for relief efforts, Mexican Small Business Owners to form association

Mexican American small-business owners held a virtual meeting Friday to voice their concerns about the impact of Covid-19 on Mexican owned businesses and the lack of financial support given to this segment of the population.

“It has not only been since the pandemic that we have suffered. We have also suffered during the economic crisis in 2008,” said Dionicio Jimenez owner of El-Guero food truck near Temple University.

“We recognize that small businesses are the ones that suffer the most and this pandemic has been no exception and that’s one of the reasons that we are uniting to form this business association,” he said.

“It was also during the last administration that many of the businesses were psychologically tortured and most affected and that’s why we need to continue working united because we’re also essential.”

Jiminez invited the community to join them in this “first initiative” as well as to patronize their local restaurants.

“After almost 20 years of experience in the industry, it is my pleasure to represent the Association of Mexican Small Business Owners in Philadelphia,” said Raul Castro, owner of two businesses in South Philadelphia.

“The goal of our campaign is to share our stories and cultural and economic contributions to our city and unify our voices in asking for support for our businesses during these difficult times,” he said.

“The pandemic has had a severe effect on all of our businesses and most of us have not received any financial relief nor support to help us stay in businesses.”

Castro said that the formation of the Association would be the first of what he called “many” upcoming initiatives of the group.

The group looks to register the organization as an official nonprofit as well as work with other Americans to accomplish these goals.

To help the Mexican American owned businesses hard hit by the pandemic, a GoFundMe campaign has been launched and to date over $29,000 have been raised to help these businesses owners meet expenses.

“Even though our businesses have not been able to receive any financial assistance from federal, state or local sources, our priority has been to protect our clients from the virus. Thus, we have strived to create spaces that respect social distancing and to find safe ways to bring our products to our client’s homes through takeout and delivery options. Even still, we have been devastated by the pandemic, and many of our businesses are at risk of bankruptcy.

Therefore, on behalf of our businesses, staff, and families, we rely on the community to support this economic relief fund,” reads the GoFundMe page.

Castro said that efforts such as increasing outdoor patio and online presence will help but admits that such measures might not be enough to save all of the businesses in need of help.

Not only is the group organizing the new Association, but they have also launched a fundraising campaign to help Mexican American small business owners who are struggling to keep their businesses afloat.

“This is a campaign to not only raise funds, not only to support Mexican owned small businesses here in South Philadelphia, especially during these hard times, but also to raise awareness about the major contributions that these businesses have made to this city,” Castro said.

Efforts to form a business association are not new said Castro.

“We’ve been working for many years to have our own association but right now, due to the pandemic, it was like our little push to bring us together. Many of our merchants face many challenges that we were not expecting, even myself.”

“Unfortunately, the pandemic made us realize how vulnerable our businesses are in a situation like this.”

“We’ve been working for 3 or 4 months on the association. Right now, we are welcoming merchants who own businesses, restaurants, small stores, hair salons. We are very excited because we are welcoming more,” said Hector Herrada, an organizer of the Association now being formed.

“All of us met and realized that we have the same problem… we were not able to qualify for any support from federal or local governments and they said ‘hey, we have a common problem. Let’s find ways that we can help each other and that’s the reason that [all the businesses] came together,” he said.

Asked why the Mexican American business community were often left out of government relief efforts for those afflicted by the Covid-19 Pandemic, Herrada said language barriers.

“Some of the reasons are the language disparity because much of the relief applications are written in English. Also, some applications require background checks.”

The background checks would deter those who are not legal citizens here in the United States.

Although the new association isn’t yet official, they are already making headway. For instance, Herrada said that the dialogue between local businesses owners and residents have revealed common problems that they are now focusing on resolving together.

“For example, sanitation: Some of them have the same provider so they may get together with a provider  as a group and get a better price and get better service so that will take care of a problem that all of us have at the same time,” said Herrada.

Those willing and able to contribute to the Mexican business Associations relief effort are encouraged to visit South Philly Mexican Business COVID Relief Fund | Created by Hector Herrada (gofundme.com) and make a donation.

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