Paraiso Tropical Brings Latin America to Edmonton
Colourful pinatas hang from the ceiling of this small family business at 9136 118th Avenue that is chock-full of traditional Latin American food products. The shop itself is the product of the hard work of Jesus and Alba Gonzalez, refugees from the civil war in El Salvador that killed 75,000 of their countrymen. Jesus and Alba and their three children came to Edmonton in 1986, adding twins to their family that same year.
“Life was very hard at first, especially when you don’t know the language,” Jesus admits. He and Alba were working at janitorial and other service-industry jobs, when they took the risk in 1991 to open a market that would supply the Latin American products that they and other immigrants were missing and support their family.
“It was a good decision,” he says now, over 25 years later. Another good decision was handing over the administration of the business to their youngest son, Jesus Jr. in 2009. Under his management, Paraiso Tropical Latin Food Market has expanded to a second location on the south side at 6926 104 Street.
Although both he and Alba are still involved in the business, they are now able to return to El Salvador to escape Edmonton winters. “I share my heart,” Jesus Sr. says. “I’m part of Canada, part of El Salvador—half and half.”
Along with his siblings, Jesus Jr. grew up with the store and hated coming to it. “It was very demanding on our family,” he says, adding that he came to appreciate his parents efforts. “As I got older, I realized where all that hard work got us.” Jesus realized he wanted to be more involved in the store and in the community. “I like feeling I’m contributing by providing food items that people can’t get in Edmonton and working collaboratively with the other businesses to make 118th Avenue a better environment,” he says.
Although the south side store is larger, the 118th location is the busiest and no longer is the customer base composed only of the Hispanic community. Both father and son mention their pleasure at being able to provide foods that others have discovered on their travels and to share their culture with others.
This special community project became reality through the creative efforts of:
Justin Brunelle | Moving Artistry Productions
Weyme Teeter | Video Editor
David Baron | Cinematographer
Shirley Serviss | Writer
The Edmonton Shutterbugs Photography Group
Christy Morin | Project Producer
Allison Argy-Burgess | Project Coordinator