Mexican restaurants in South Philly make the area the vibrant dining destination that it is. With Adelita’s Pueblan cuisine, Los Cuatro Soles’s locally-famous burritos, and the El Güero food truck’s tacos and tortas, Mexican businesses are a vital part of fabric of the Italian Market neighborhood. But when COVID-19 swept through the restaurant industry early last year, many of these immigrant-owned businesses were especially hard-hit. With a lack of federal funding, Mexican-owned businesses in South Philly were often left without a lifeline for survival.
To fight back against bankruptcy and closing for good, 12 local Mexican merchants have banded together to form the Association of Mexican Business Owners of Philadelphia. In partnership with the Merchants Fund, a Philly-based charity that organizes grants for local businesses facing financial hardship, the group’s first major initiative is a GoFundMe to raise money to enable them to keep their doors open. In three weeks since they launched the fundraiser, they’ve raised nearly $30,000 toward their $50,000 goal.
“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,” representatives for the AMBOP wrote in the GoFundMe. “Even still, we have been devastated by the pandemic, and many of our businesses are at risk of bankruptcy.” The fund will be split evenly among the 12 businesses, nine of which are restaurants.
There are significant prohibiting factors for immigrant-owned businesses in gaining access to government funding like PPP loans. Language and technology barriers can cause issues, and red tape that necessitates pre-existing relationships with banks or for businesses to be long-established has made it harder for members of the AMBOP to gain access to federal or local funding. Philatinos radio host Héctor Herrada estimates that there are 45 Mexican businesses in the Ninth Street area alone, and up to 150 Mexican businesses in all of South Philadelphia. “On behalf of our businesses, staff, and families, we rely on the community to support this economic relief fund,” members of the AMBOP wrote in the GoFundMe. Without access to more formal relief, this fundraiser is just one way to keep this essential community alive.