El Mercadito Carrusel, or “the little carousel market” in English, is a food and craft festival named after the merry-go-round in downtown Santa Ana, which attracted many Latino families before its removal in 2011.
The monthly event aims to promote the talents of Latino families and communities in Santa Ana.
“We wanted to make sure that the Latino culture and identity of the city remained, and this is one of the ways in which we’re doing that,” said Ana Urzua, the sustainability coordinator for the Santa Ana Building Healthy Communities initiative.
Urzua is one of the organizers behind El Mercadito Carrusel, and as a long-term resident of Santa Ana, Urzua saw the concerns of people who felt like they no longer belonged.
We wanted to make sure that the Latino culture and identity of the city remained and this is one of the ways in which we’re doing that,Ana Urzua
As of now, Urzua said there are about 16 to 20 vendors, with a list that continues to grow. The Santa Ana Building Healthy Communities initiative created an analysis to identify the root problem of health inequalities in the city.
Urzua said one of those problems was the lack of economic opportunities. Thus, El Mercadito Carrusel was born in an attempt to fix these economic inequalities.
To become a vendor, they must: make a commitment to formalize their business; obtain business, seller and health permits; and have an active presence in the Santa Ana community, Urzua said.
Luz Maria Martinez, one of the vendors for El Mercadito Carrusel, has been actively participating in the festival for one year.
“I’ve been interested in my business being co-operative and that’s when I first got involved and found out about this event. I’ve been involved ever since,” said Martinez.
Martinez’s main dish is the traditional tlacoyo, a dish made from blue corn and fresh toppings such as cheese and beans. For Martinez, making food has always been an enjoyable and comforting hobby, and she said she hopes she can grow her business to support herself and other people.
Another regular vendor at the festival, Marlha Sanchez, said she has been crafting for about 15 years. Sanchez handmakes beeswax candles, organic tea blends, coffee, earrings and stickers.
“I’m a single mom, so it’s a really good opportunity for me to make extra income for my family but also to still be connecting with the community,” Sanchez said. “I feel like this is a great space to come and support local artists who maybe don’t have the means to advertise in a big way, but still have a lot of amazing skills and talents to share.”
While enjoying traditional Mexican dishes and listening to local bands play live music, Priscilla Guzman said the intimacy of El Mercadito Carrusel made the environment feel like a family event.
“This event is cool because they do it to bring people of our culture together and to show the different talents,” said Guzman.
Urzua said the families and residents of Santa Ana have so much creativity and interest in growing their craft.
“If we supported our community members locally, we can see a tremendous growth in the economy of this city and for the families of Santa Ana,” Urzua said.
The festival acts as a platform to help families grow and formalize their businesses. Urzua said El Mercadito Carrusel is very representative of the culture and traditions of Santa Ana.
“In Spanish there is a word called ‘convivió, convivencia’ and it means to ‘live with.’ I really feel like this is an opportunity for all of us to ‘live with’ and celebrate what we have here in the city,” Urzua said.