If there is one thing, we can all agree on is, this year has been like no other. Throughout almost all of 2020, things have looked a bit different and this holiday season is no exception.

 

As we brace for a potential second wave of COVID-19 shutdowns here in New York City, independent businesses, along with the local eateries, have shifted the way in which they operate. They have faced profound challenges throughout the year and have all had to creatively come up with different strategies to stay afloat.

 

Operating a lot differently than they’re used to has been tough, especially during the holiday season. With so much uncertainty looming ahead, it is extremely important to continue supporting the people and places we enjoy frequenting year-round.

 

Along with making customers happy, the locally owned businesses play a huge role in the economy as well as the community, moving both forward in a positive way. The success of one local business can have a trickle effect – if a business is doing well, they’ll need to hire additional staff or employees, and in turn, will look towards the community to fill those roles.

 

When shopping local, over 65 percent more of the dollar stays right in the local community compared to shopping online. Supporting these types of businesses helps keep stores open and their employees employed. Another reason why it’s important to support our local “neighbors.”

 

As we focus in on the good we can do as a community, we can support our local shops, even if it’s in a slightly different way then we’re used to. If you’re wondering how, consider some of the following ideas:

 

 

As we are days away from the holiday, there is still time to grab those last-minute gifts. Brooklyn neighborhoods are bustling with local shops and we’re sharing just a small sample of what the borough has to offer:

 

In addition to grabbing gifts (or even something for yourself) from these and other independent shops, remember to also check out your local eateries. Whether you’re looking for a meal for two, catering for a bit more guests, in search of some delicious desserts, coffees, or teas, check out some of these local spots:

 

As we close out a year that has been difficult for so many people, remember we can help make a difference by choosing small businesses.

When talking about the city of Brooklyn, one can’t help but acknowledge the fact that it is a melting pot of many different cultures which is one of the reasons why the borough is a sought-after destination.

Of the many different ethnicities that make up our country, Hispanics are the nation’s second-fastest-growing racial or ethnic group, making up roughly 18% of the nation’s total population.

According to data from The Pew Research Center, the overall total reached 60.6 million in 2019 and based on the 2010 Census, 19.8% of Brooklyn’s population was of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin.

Hispanic Heritage month, which runs between September 15th and October 15th, marks the celebration of a culture that has seen, and continues to see, great strides and accomplishments.

Originally established as Hispanic Heritage week in 1968 as a celebration that recognizes the histories, cultures, and contributions of Americans whose ancestors came to this country, it then became a month-long celebration back in 1988.

 

Interesting Fact – September 15th was chosen as the start date because it is the anniversary of the independence of five Hispanic countries – Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

 

Over the years, there have been a great number of trailblazers and history makers who have paved the way in a variety of outlets, some names more recognizable than others.

People like Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic female astronaut (she visited space four separate times), Lizzie Velasquez, an anti-bullying advocate, Sylvia Rivera, a Venezuelan-Puerto Rican transgender person who fought tirelessly for LGBTQ rights and is credited with putting the “T” in the acronym LGBTQ, Berta Caceres, a leading environmental and human rights activist who spent her life fighting for the rights and land of the indigenous Lenca people of Honduras, and the notable Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a groundbreaking figure in modern politics.

Big name stars like Rita Hayworth, Rosie Perez, Jimmy Smits, Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, and Christina Aguliera, to name just a few, have come out of Brooklyn or the surrounding boroughs, and went on to be a force in their respective fields.

When we speak of Brooklyn being a melting pot of cultures, there are quite a few neighborhoods with a strong Hispanic presence. Bushwick, a neighborhood originally founded by the Dutch, became predominantly Hispanic by the late 20th century, and today has the largest Hispanic community, many of whom are Puerto Rican with some Dominican and people from South America.

 

Interesting Fact – Approximately 80% of the neighborhood population is Hispanic and the dominant language spoken is Spanish.

 

Other areas with a strong Hispanic presence include:

East New York, originally founded as the town of New Lots in the middle of the 1600s, began to see a rise in the Hispanic community towards the latter part of the twentieth century.

Sunset Park, a sparsely developed area in the late 19th century, but one that would be called home by many Hispanic and other immigrant groups by the 21st century.

Williamsburg, an area that has not only gone through gentrification since the late 1990’s but has always welcomed numerous ethnic groups within the enclaves of the neighborhood.

Red Hook, originally a prosperous shipping and port area in the early 20th century is now home to many ethnic groups including Hispanic.

Puerto Viejo Dominican Bistro in 1940 Brooklyn NY

Along with the multi-cultural neighborhoods that many Brooklynites call home, the borough is also filled with an array of Hispanic-owned businesses which allow both residents and out-of-towners the opportunity to experience the culture.

With a wide array of culinary options, there are quite a few neighborhood restaurants to try. And despite the numerous obstacles businesses have faced over the last several months due to the worldwide pandemic, these tried and true neighborhood gems have continued to serve their patrons. Some establishments to check out include:

Puerto Viejo – This Dominican Bistro has been a neighborhood staple since 1986. Serving up authentic dishes using only the freshest ingredients, a meal at Puerto Viejo will leave you feeling like it came straight from your kitchen. – 564 Grand Avenue, Brooklyn, NY  11238

Love, Nelly – Serving Columbian inspired sweets, Love, Nelly, located in East Bushwick, pays homage to co-owner and baker Stephanie Gallardo’s mom. All of the sweet treats are reminiscent of the childhood memories Stephanie has of visiting family in Columbia and South America. – 53 Rockaway Avenue, Brooklyn, NY  11233

 

Casa Ora – This farm to table restaurant not only serves up some home cooked Spanish food, it is also focused on bringing the beauty and nature of Venezuela to NYC. In an effort to give back, Casa Ora donates a portion of their revenue to families forced to seek asylum due to lack of human rights. – 148 Meserole Street, Brooklyn, NY  11206

 

Devocion – Launched in 2006, Columbian born Steve Sutton set out to bring his customers the freshest coffee imaginable. With not one but three cafes, (Williamsburg, Downtown Brooklyn, and the Flatiron District in NYC,) this farm-to-table coffee can also be ordered directly from Devocion’s website for anyone who cannot make it to one of the three locations.

 

While these are just a few places within the various Brooklyn neighborhoods, authentic Hispanic cuisine can be found throughout the entire borough.

As we continue to celebrate Hispanic Heritage month, it’s important to learn more about the people and brands whose roots are embedded in the Hispanic culture and continue to break down barriers, along with the pioneers who helped pave the way for others to follow.

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