Photo depicting members and volunteers of SPMA wearing black t-shirts posing in front of numerous pop-up tents at one of their weekend markets.

South Park’s Multicultural Latino Market Celebrates Mexican Independence Day Saturday

by Mark Van Streefkerk

The South Park Multicultural Latino Market, a recurring weekend pop-up hosted by the South Park Merchants Association (SPMA), will host a special celebration of Mexican Independence Day and Hispanic American Heritage Month on Saturday, Sept. 18, at the South Park Plaza. Fiestas Patrias will feature DJs spinning salsa, cumbia, merengue, banda, and quebradita sonidero music, and vendors will sell authentic Mexican and Latino foods like tacos, empanadas, elotes, specialty non-alcoholic drinks, as well as clothing, jewelry, and collectibles. The celebration starts at 1 p.m. and goes until 5 p.m. or later. RSVP and find out more at the Fiesta Patrias Facebook event page

Mexican Independence Day took place on Sept. 16, but other Central and South American countries celebrate their independence days around the same time, kicking off Hispanic American Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Fiestas Patrias is an inclusive Independence Day celebration for South Park’s diverse Latino community and everyone is welcome. 

The usual weekend market started in August and takes place every Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. In addition to activating the Plaza  — which SPMA secretary Bianca Juarez said had been a little “in limbo” while the City finalizes plans to develop the area into a park in 2022 — SPMA’s goals for the markets include supporting local small businesses and creating more youth opportunities in South Park. 

SPMA President Rocio Arriaga explained that the markets help support families of merchants who have had to shut down their businesses because of the pandemic. “They are trying to start anew and just get some income from somewhere,” she said. 

Some of the businesses might need help with navigating the licensing and permitting processes, something that the SPMA can help them with. In fact, there are no merchant fees for the month of September, and SPMA encourages interested vendors to reach out. “We’ll be there to assist them in getting their permits in order,” Juarez said. “That’s our goal: for everyone to have everything in order so they may be able to qualify for different stimulus, maybe grants, things they can actually acquire if they have a paper trail.” 

For a small or up-and-coming business, the market provides a great launching pad with very little overhead, an opportunity to refine operations, and the help of the SPMA. After generating an income and gaining experience at the market, Juarez said a business could make the leap into a brick-and-mortar location a little easier “because they have the knowledge, experience, and community behind them to help them succeed.” 

The market can also be an additional income stream for BIPOC communities fighting the ever-looming threat of gentrification and displacement in South Park. “A lot of people have been displaced from their houses,” Juarez explained. “The prices are very high for living here. Helping them get a [greater] income will stop or slow that happening in this neighborhood.” 

SPMA is also collaborating with the Young Entrepreneurs of Seattle (YES) to provide youth opportunities throughout the market. Some young people volunteer to help with market functions, but others are vendors themselves. President of YES Yael Vazquez said vendors can employ youth as cashiers, “so the owners get a chance to do owner stuff, rather than being self-employees, and we can teach the youth how to manage business and have a little income.”

After Fiestas Patrias, the market will host two other special celebrations this year: Festival del Dia de Los Muertos on Oct. 30–31, a commemoration of the dead that includes making altars and traditional dishes for loved ones who have passed on, and a Posada on Dec. 18. Posadas are an important Christmas tradition celebrated throughout South America. The market’s celebration will include foods like tamales, candy for the kids, and hot drinks like ponche or atole. 

Five hard-working SPMA members, and sometimes a handful of volunteers, coordinate the logistics of over 15 (and counting) market vendors. Juarez admits it’s a lot of work for such a small team, but supporting youth and small family businesses are vital to the South Park community. “We’re managing all of this with our full hearts and everything we have so everybody can have a good experience, customers and vendors,” she says. Sometimes after the market ends, “we just put on some music and start dancing. We say, ‘Thank you for everything’ … and then we dance. Everyone is welcome to join.” 

The Multicultural Latino Market is seeking new vendors as well as sponsors. Contribute directly to SPMA’s small business fund, and reach out to for vendor info or to become a sponsor.

Mark Van Streefkerk is a South Seattle-based journalist, freelance writer, and the Emerald’s Arts, Culture, & Community editor. He often writes about restaurants, LGBTQ+ topics, and more. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter at @VanStreefkerk.

📸 Featured Image: The South Park Merchants Association (SPMA) hosts the South Park Multicultural Latino Market, a recurring weekend pop-up that supports local small businesses and creates more youth opportunities in South Park. Photo courtesy of SPMA.

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