Mercado Local poster

Holiday shoppers will find new and unique items at a Hispanic holiday market next month.

Known as Mercado Local and sponsored by Rice County Neighbors United, the market will be set up in the Northfield depot, 204 Third St. W, and feature the wares of at least seven vendors on the first three weekends of December.

“There will be colorful decorations to make it look like a Mexican market,” said Mar Valdecantos, director of RCNU.

“It it’s successful, this could very well be a path to an annual event.”

Mercado Local came together in the past two months as Valdecantos, Charlie Kyte and other team members brainstormed ways to promote minority-owned businesses in the area.

Valdecantos explained that RCNU had recently received a grant from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation for business development.

“One member of our team said, ‘I love Mercado Central in Minneapolis,’ so that sparked a conversation—why not a holiday market here,” said Valdecantos.

Kyte, a member of the Northfield Downtown Development Corp., assisted with plans for Mercado Local.

“After latching on to the holiday market idea, Mar, Nate Carlson of the Economic Development Authority and I thought of possible locations,” said Kyte, relating how the depot came into play.

“From there, we talked with the depot people, who were glad to have it, approached the EDA for a little funding for rent, drew up a simple lease and it was signed.”

In addition to the $950 from the EDA to cover the rent, Mercado Local received $500 from the NDDC for publicity purposes.

“It will be another alternative for holiday shopping,” said Valdecantos, citing the success and appeal of similar pop-up shops in recent years.

Multiple vendors are eager to offer merchandise such as jewelry, clothing, art and crafts, most of it originating in Latin American countries.

“For vendors who have these products but don’t have a storefront, this is an opportunity for them to sell their beautiful things to everyone,” said Valdecantos.

Besides giving local and visiting shoppers exposure to Latin American products, Valdecantos says Mercado Local is also aimed at promoting entrepreneurship and boosting the local immigrant community, which accounted for at least 12 percent of Northfield’s population in the 2010 census.

“There are many parts of our community that are invisible,” said Valdecantos, “and we are working to change that.”

Because Mercado Local does not yet have a cottage food producers license, Valdecantos said it is unlikely food will be available for purchase this season.

“But in future iterations of the market we may get people lined up, or we might invite the different Mexican restaurants in town to rotate on site if they want to participate and offer something easy,” said Valdecantos.

Northfield artist Rocky Casillas created Mercado Local’s striking green poster, which highlights the image of the Aztec feathered snake, Quetzalcoatl.

“Quetzalcoatl is important in Aztec mythology,” said Valdecantos.

It’s that sort of cultural awareness and education, along with developing avenues for greater economic success among Northfield’s minority residents, that Valdecantos and Kyte hope Mercado Local will spur.

“I’m envisioning all my children and grandchildren getting Mexican crafts for Christmas,” said Kyte, “and I hope a lot of other people will do the same thing.”

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