BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to honor and welcome the influx of Hispanic immigrants to Louisiana.
Angela Villarta, a Honduran immigrant, now calls the capital area home. While living in Gonzales, Villarta lives with her father and attends college while working at Ideal Market.
“Louisiana’s always been the great melting pot and I just think in the last few decades, the influx of Hispanics have just added to the culture of Louisiana and to the flavor of it,” said Ben Castro, marketing director at Ideal Market.
Villarta is one of over 400 workers employed by Ideal Market, a decades-old grocery chain that caters to the Hispanic community.
“After Hurricane Katrina, when the influx of Hispanic Americans started coming into Louisiana, who helped reconstruct our city, the owners of the company realized there was a need for a Hispanic supermarket,” said Castro. Today, Ideal Market has seven locations and is expected to soon open its eighth location in Gonzales in 2023.
Outside of work, Vallarta attends LSU and wants to pursue a career in medicine.
“Much like every immigrant community that’s ever came into the United States, that first generation is really trying to figure it out, but then their children really taking advantage of those opportunities,” said Khalid Hudson, lead organizer for Together Baton Rouge.
Castro attributes the growing population of Hispanics in Louisiana to greater opportunities in the United States. “I think it’s the opportunities for work, for a better life. We see our employees — people who come in — they come in from other countries. They settle here in Louisiana. Within a year, they’re purchasing homes and buying cars. They’re part of the community,” said Castro.
The most recent Census data shows Louisiana’s population grew by 2.7% from 2010 to 2020, while the Hispanic population grew by more than 67% during the same time.
“Some of our colleagues throughout the country have done amazing things working with the Latino community,” said Hudson, “and so I think it’s right for us to also be figuring out ways to make sure that folks feel comfortable.”