From left: Mercado collaborators Meliton Martinez, Guadencio Felipe, Jorge Fernando Guzman, Paula Asunción, Andres Felipe Perez, Caitlin Burke, and Juan Vázquez Silva
Image: Lauren Lark
From left: Mercado collaborators Meliton Martinez, Guadencio Felipe, Jorge Fernando Guzman, Paula Asunción, Andres Felipe Perez, Caitlin Burke, and Juan Vázquez Silva

You wouldn’t look twice at SE 72nd Avenue and Foster Road: an abandoned auto wholesaler, paint peeling, lot overtaken by encroaching weeds. Starting in April, this sad spot could become a beacon for Latino Portland.

The concept: the Portland Mercado. The planned market will feature a bakery and café, a tortilleria, a taproom, and a food-cart court developed by the Hacienda Community Development Corporation, which builds homes and kickstarts businesses for Portland’s Latino community. A commissary kitchen, available at rates far under market prices, will serve as a culinary business incubator. “There’s not a lot of kitchen space in Southeast,” says Jamie Melton, the Mercado’s spokeswoman. “We really hope to provide that for small entrepreneurs.”

Mixteca Catering, for example, sells tamales, picaditas, and tostaditos at the Lloyd Farmers Market. “We’re excited to share our ancestral dishes, like tamales de mole, year-round in a set location,” says Mixteca’s Alejandrina Felipe.

The $2.4 million project, funded in part by grants from the Portland Development Commission and the federal government, aims to unite two driving forces of civic culture: Portland’s buzzing food scene and our booming Hispanic communities. (Oregon’s Hispanic population is growing five times faster than the state as a whole.) “Food is a vibrant part of culture, and people want to share it,” Melton says.