Latinos looking for opportunities find them in Nashville's growing economy

Posted at 10:37 PM, Sep 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-17 00:49:50-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Ruth Rico is no stranger to adversity. She left Colombia 18 years ago. "I came for a better future for my sons", she said in Spanish.

But a passion for cooking and an itch for entrepreneurship led her to start her own business. What began as a simple business selling homemade Colombian food from her kitchen, has now turned into her food truck business called Delicias Colombiana RR. She is on the road with her food truck five days a week selling all over Nashville and cooking out of a commercial kitchen.

“We’re seeing Latinos moving from all around the U.S.- specifically from California, Texas, the East Coast, and of course from the Midwest- from Chicago area specifically,” said former chairman for the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Luis Parodi.

He said the latest census data showed an increase in Davidson County Hispanic residents from 10% in 2010 to 14% in 2020, but he notes that number could realistically be as high as 20% when taking into account those who are not yet U.S. citizens.

“It’s been explosive," said Parodi. "I think the fact that we have a diverse economy here in the hospitality, health care, construction for sure."

Even so, Latino businesses, like others, are feeling the effects of COVID with lost revenue and staffing shortages.

"Just recently with Bonnaroo we had two spaces rented", said Rico who lost major sales after the festival's cancellation. She was left with thousands of empanadas and arepas and no festival to sell them at, after a year of other canceled events.

"She got hit very badly during the COVID times," said Parodi. "A lot of concerts and events were canceled, but she was able to be flexible and manage those conditions and that resilience that the Latino community brings to the table, that’s what a lot of employers, a lot of managers are looking for.”

Rico said, "I've been presented with many obstacles, but I never move backwards."

She said her story is proof that despite life’s obstacles, success is possible for those who push ahead- like she did, chasing her American dream.