Small businesses cope with pandemic fallout | Hispanic Heritage Month

Latinos make up 27.5% of New York City's population. Their influence is being felt in politics, culture, and the economy.

Latinos are starting businesses at a faster rate than the national average, growing 34% over the last 10 years, according to the New York City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

"Between 2018 and 2019, their net revenue grew about 18%," said Andrea Giraldo, a chamber board member.

Victor de Leon owns Victor Bike in Washington Heights. The Dominican native opened his bike shop 27 years ago. He said that while he has had challenges, he's been able to keep the doors open even throughout a global pandemic. Business is better than ever.

"100%, 100% this pandemic, the people don't like to use the transit, use public transportation, everyone wants the bicycles right now," Victor said. "That's the problem. Every bicycle store does not have bicycles — we sold out all the bicycles."

That said, COVID-19 has affected many of them.

"Most of those businesses were the ones that suffered the most because of social distancing," Giraldo said. "They were not ready to face this economic downturn that hit not only the owners but then cascaded into unemployment for their employees who happen to be Hispanic as well."

It has been the case for restaurants, which have had a hard time. 

"Once COVID started happening in the city, all the restaurants started to close earlier than usual," said Larry Guillen, the manager of Tu Cachapa.

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The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has partnered with several financial institutions throughout the city to help business owners secure loans.

Even though Latinos continue to struggle to secure capital, they are hardworking people who take care of each other.

Hispanic Heritage Month runs from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. So why does it start in the middle of the month? On Sept. 15, 1821, Central America's Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua declared their independence from Spain.

In 1989, President Ronald Reagan declared it a month-long commemoration.