Hispanics in Halifax try to build a community

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Do you speak Spanish? A growing number of Haligonians are doing so. But they don’t always get together to talk it out.

“There are people, but there is no community. They don’t come together, ”said Claudia Pinto.

Pinto, who uses the pronouns themselves, is one of the few Latins who have lived in Halifax for over 20 years. Over the course of two decades in the city, they have seen the Spanish speaking community grow tremendously.

“The Latin community has grown,” said Pinto. “When I was educated there were about 300 people here in Halifax. Now I don’t know how many of us there are, but I’m sure there are over 300 people. And they come from different countries.

Despite the growth, Pinto said the community is not always cohesive.

Claudia Pinto poses in their kitchen as they finish a day’s work at Café Aroma Latino. Abel Rangel

The 2016 census shows that there were 1,520 people in Halifax whose mother tongue is Spanish and 1,880 people speaking Spanish at home. The next census is expected to be released in 2022, but rapidly expanding Facebook groups suggest the numbers are increasing.

According to the Halifax Language Institute, one way for Spanish speakers to enter Halifax is through student visas, trying to learn English. Alex Pascual, the institute’s recruiting manager, provided a list of countries.

“Most of our Spanish-speaking student body is from Mexico, followed closely by Colombia,” Pascual wrote in an email. “Over the past five years, we have had fewer students coming from Chile, Peru, Guatemala, Argentina and Spain.

Very little is known about the Spanish speaking population of Nova Scotia other than these student numbers. While the numbers indicate an increase, is there a truly active community?

Pinto said that unlike other cities, Halifax does not have a designated neighborhood where Latinos meet or where Latin music clubs can host events.

“There are Latinos in Halifax, but they’re scattered,” Pinto said. “They are not in a specific neighborhood, like in Toronto or in the big cities.”

Pinto owns Café Aroma Latino, one of the few restaurants in town serving Latin American cuisine. In their restaurant, Pinto cooks dishes representative of all of Latin America, with cuisine from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia and Argentina.

Adjacent to Café Aroma Latino, Pinto also has a grocery store that sells Latin American products that can only be purchased there. This store is the reason Pinto knows the city’s Spanish speaking population is growing.

Claudia Pinto’s business, Café Aroma Latino, is located in North Halifax. Abel Rangel

“Because of the store and the demand I have, I know the Latin numbers here in the city are growing,” Pinto said. “Due to the volume of what I sell and the people I see walking into the store, I can tell the community is growing. “

Pinto said the language is extremely important in making New Latins feel welcome in the city.

Otoniel Olea, a Mexican student who came to Halifax to learn English, created a Facebook group called Mexicanos in Halifax, or Mexicans in Halifax, to find other Latinos in the city. As of December 9, the group had 4,946 members.

“Early on, when I moved to Halifax from Mexico, I decided to surf the web to find information on recommendations and find other Latins who could give me advice on Halifax. You know, the cost of living, the shopping, the places to see in the city, ”Olea said. “I couldn’t find any of this. I couldn’t find anyone. I was alone. So I decided to create the group.

Olea said the Facebook group started with just five to 11 members in the first two weeks. Now, this is the go-to place for Latinos to interact.

According to data from the Facebook group, 70 percent of members are Mexican, followed by 10 percent Argentinian, five percent Colombian and five percent Venezuelan. The remaining 10 percent comes from various smaller countries.

Olea said he felt the group was primarily serving as an information platform and not so much a community-related venue.

“It makes me feel good to have created an online community where we can help each other,” said Olea.

“But I agree,” said Olea. “There is a virtual community that is ready to help, but there is no cultural or physical community. I don’t hear people say, meet or date.

Otoniel Olea created the Mexicanos Facebook group in Halifax in 2018. Abel Rangel

Is community connection a struggle for the Latins?

That’s what Stéphanie Gomez thinks. She moved to Halifax three months ago to start school in Dalhousie.

“In Toronto, we had a whole neighborhood for Latinos,” Gomez said. “In Toronto, I could see it. I mean, it’s a huge place, and of course there are a lot of events. Latin events you could attend and meet Latins. I haven’t seen anything like it here.

Laura Lopera, who moved to Toronto in 2019 and then to Halifax, said she noticed a big difference in the size of the Latin community when she arrived.

“When I got here, at that time, it was quite small, like, there were only a few families moving here and there, but most of them will be leaving,” she said. declared.

Lopera suspects the numbers will continue to rise, but believes there should be more resources for the Spanish speaking community in Halifax.

However, Lopera said there are few community development initiatives and resources for Spanish speakers in Halifax.

Andrea Pilar Ondo Nsang is a student at Saint Mary’s University who left Spain for Canada five years ago. She also said that there aren’t many programs to support the Spanish speaking community and their cultures in Halifax.

Ondo Nsang said there should be more physical spaces.

“In terms of the Spanish community, I will say that there is no kind of office for that,” she said.

Andrea Pilar Ondo Nsang came to Canada from Spain to study at Saint Mary’s University. Avery stewart

Lopera said her group of friends are also trying to take charge of themselves to try and expand their network.

“We’re trying to bring everyone together and just trying to have a strong community that hasn’t been there. When we got here there was nothing, it was very much like Facebook groups and they just got together to go bowling, ”Lopera said. “There should be like, like I said before, the non-profit organization that helps people.”

Pinto believes the city’s Latin community will continue to grow over the years.

“I’ve seen him for over 22 years. This will continue, ”Pinto said. “It’s not going to be as quick as people think. Maybe in 10 years it will be big enough for its own neighborhood.

Abel Rangel

Abel is a journalist with a background in transgender studies and screenwriting. He works and lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Avery stewart

Avery Stewart is a journalist in Halifax. She has a background in English literature and philosophy.

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