Montevideo store serves Latino community in western counties

MONTEVIDEO -- Living in the heart of Branson, Mo., Armando and Delia Castaneda scrimped and saved toward a dream that had nothing to do with the glitzy entertainment world around them.

MONTEVIDEO -- Living in the heart of Branson, Mo., Armando and Delia Castaneda scrimped and saved toward a dream that had nothing to do with the glitzy entertainment world around them.

They wanted the opportunity to open their own business so that they could someday afford to send their three young sons to college.

They believe they have found that opportunity in Montevideo, where the Castanedas opened El Paraiso Latino Deli and Bakery this summer.

"We saw the need and wanted to help,'' said Delia in describing how they chose Montevideo.

The Castanedas had come to Montevideo to visit friends one year ago.


They discovered that the community had a sizable Latino population with a need, said the Castanedas.

Before they opened their store, the Latino population in the Montevideo area had to travel to Willmar for ethnic goods. That is difficult, said Armando, since many cannot afford their own cars.

Also, the Latino population in western Minnesota and eastern South Dakota is dispersed. Many of the families have settled in communities such as Milan, Clarkfield and Hanley Falls, where they've been able to find affordable housing.

Perhaps most important of all for the Castanedas, they discovered that the majority of Latino residents in Montevideo are from Honduras. They are eager to buy the familiar products from home and the Castanedas are making that possible.

Their new store located in the heart of Montevideo's downtown is stocked with all manner of both Mexican and Honduran products. There are fresh baked goods from a Mexican bakery in Willmar and candies made only in Mexico. There are also shelves stocked exclusively with products from Honduras, everything from staple foods and snacks and soda pops to religious items and even souvenirs.

"It's very important,'' said Armando of the Honduran products to his customers. Honduran products are more difficult to come by and generally more expensive, but Armando said his customers are willing to pay.

Most of their Honduran customers come from Comaygua and Yoro, Honduras. The Castanedas are hoping to offer a webcast connection to Comaygua for the customers.

That's just the start of an ambitious agenda at the store. The two are preparing to open a small restaurant featuring Hispanic foods. Delia used to own a store in Mexico City and operated a bakery and dessert business that catered to the theaters in Branson. She is again baking cakes for special events and is hoping to start a small bakery here.


The couple would also like to offer clothing from Mexico and Central America and possibly a hair salon. Their spacious building offers all the room they need, and Armando is an experienced carpenter. He is also an evangelical Christian preacher and served as a missionary in Honduras for five years.

Entrepreneurs have established Hispanic businesses in Willmar, where most of the region's Hispanic and Latino population lives. Census estimates for 2005 show 3,531 people of Latino or Hispanic ethnicity in Kandiyohi County.

Is the Latino market west of Willmar large enough for entrepreneurs like the Castanedas?

In Chippewa County there are an estimated 485 people of Latino or Hispanic origin, according to the 2005 census projection. Customers to the store also come from Yellow Medicine, Swift and Lac qui Parle counties, where the 2005 census projections show a total of 624 people of Hispanic or Latino origin.

Martha McMurry, who authored a report for the Minnesota State Demographic Center on the growing ethnic diversity of the state, said census numbers show continued growth in Hispanic and Latino populations in the state. She noted that the projected numbers tend to be conservative.

Some of the best evidence for the growing Hispanic and Latino community in the Montevideo area can be found in its churches. The Rev. Paul Losik, pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church in Montevideo, said a few members of the local Hispanic community approached his church about the need for a place to worship in 2003.

The church opened its doors, and ever since has been seeing a growing number of people at Spanish language services in facilities offered by the church.

That story is repeated at other churches as well. The Rev. Bruce Jarman, pastor of the Community Bible Church, said his congregation has also committed itself to assisting a growing Hispanic community, and has seen growing interest.


The Rev. Jim Devorack at St. Joseph's Catholic Church said his church has reached out to the Hispanic community by hiring a Spanish speaker. It now offers a Saturday evening Mass in Spanish, and attendance is growing. He said they welcome people from an area reaching all the way to Marshall.

He noted that the increased attendance may be due to the outreach efforts, and not necessarily a growth in the Latino population.

Armando and Delia Castaneda estimate that there are 1,000 Latino and Hispanic residents in their market area. They believe the opening of the new Wal-Mart Super Center in Montevideo has helped them draw customers from a bigger radius. Many of the area's Latino residents are faithful Wal-Mart customers, they said. With the opening of the Montevideo Super Center, they can save miles by traveling to Montevideo instead of Willmar.

The Castanedas believe the success of their business will depend on attracting non-Latino customers as well. A portion of their business already comes from the area's Anglo population. Many people enjoy Hispanic foods and products. And, many of their Anglo customers are familiar with Mexican brands from trips they've made, said Armando.

Many people drop by the store to try Mexican baked goods or candies or Honduran sodas and treats for a time-honored reason. "They love something new,'' said Delia.

They hope the novelty never wears off at the store. "We want to save money and send our sons to university,'' said Armando. Their sons are ages 4 months, 3 and 11.

What To Read Next
Get Local