Hispanic Culture continues to leave its mark on Topeka community heritage

Authentic Mexican Food Los Portales is located at 1116 SE 6th Avenue.

Tricia Peterson / Washburn Review

Hispanic culture is growing in Topeka, and so is the number of businesses supporting this growth. Not only are there many restaurants around town, there are also markets, clothing stores and nightclubs aimed at Spanish speaking citizens.

East of Branner Trafficway on 6th Avenue are a wide variety of businesses catering to Hispanics in Topeka.  Because 14,000 Topeka residents are Hispanic or Latino, and only 7,000 of them speak English, there is a large quantity of people looking for stores they can communicate in. Not only is communication the goal, but only certain imported goods can be found in these specialty shops.  The diversity in Topeka is growing and has been for some time, and the businesses popping up are a good sign that Spanish culture is gaining popularity here.

“Living in Topeka is interesting because of the diversity,” said Magda Medina, a Washburn University student. “I do feel that this is a good place for people of diversity to live.”

El Rodeo Miscelanea is at 1706 SE 6th Ave. that provides specialty food as well as a meat market.  Various cuts of beef are available and some are already seasoned and ready to cook. A variety of dried peppers and chiles can be bought by the pound.  Also, found here are tortilla presses, Mexican-made Coca-Cola, and liquor.

Deportes y Mas, at 1517 SE 6th Ave., another specialized grocer, have some of the same products as El Rodeo Miscelanea, but focus more on materials like clothing and shoes, while having some food and candy.  They provide the white dresses and outfits needed for Baptisms, First Communion and other special cultural events.  They also have a large selection of shoes for men, women and children. From soccer shoes to pretty pink boots, they have a little for everyone in the family. Piñatas are popular here and hang from the ceiling in a variety of characters.

In this same area of Topeka, there are several restaurants and nightclubs that are aimed at Spanish-speaking citizens.  El Azteca Nightclub, at 1201 SE 6th Ave. is only open on the weekends, and usually, it’s hit or miss. The owner, Raul Munoz, who also owns Los Portales Restaurant, promises there will be more exciting things to come from El Azteca in the future.

“They are open [on the weekends], but sometimes the business is slower, so sometimes they are closed,” said Munoz.  “They [have] new managers, same owners, and they are going to start having big bands and this weekend, they have a big event coming up.”

El Azteca provides entertainment such as live bands, pool and music. They play salsa, reggaeton, merengue, R&B, hiphop, cubia’s and norteno. It is open Friday through Sunday from 7 p.m. until 1:30 a.m.

Los Portales across the street from El Azteca at 1116 SE 6th Ave. They specialize in authentic Mexican food, and pride themselves in being family owned and operated. Munoz himself waits tables, cashiers and does pretty much anything that needs to be done.

“We are] trying to operate our business to make the customers feel at home,” said Munoz. “I want to make them feel like I like to feel when I am the customer.”

Not only are the restaurant owners attempting to make Hispanics feel at home in Topeka, so are many other people, including the Spanish newspaper available for free throughout the city.

“Dos Mundos” or “Two Worlds” is a periodical available in Topeka for the Hispanic. Not only are the stories in Spanish, they are also written in English. The news includes local, as well as national news, education, recipes and local coupons. The paper is printed locally with a new issue every two weeks.

Since the early 90’s, Topeka has come a long way and it continues to grow culturally.  There are always new restaurants popping up, new markets aimed at certain cultures and a larger Spanish speaking population.