LOS ANGELES — Dora Herrera, the owner of Yuca's, feels comfortable getting back into the kitchen and back to work after getting her vaccination.
The restaurant has been a staple in the community for 45 years, even winning a James Beard Award for their food, but still, they felt the effects of the pandemic.
"Nobody was coming because everyone was freaking out," Herrera said. "We lost about 75% of our revenue in the first few days."
Herrera is one of several Latinos who had to deal with the effects of the pandemic. According to the Latino Restaurant Association, Latinos represent 64% of labor in all restaurants. Many Latinos were left without work, with 2.5 million jobs lost in the U.S. due to the pandemic.
The association created Dine Latino Restaurant Week, which runs April 6-11 to help struggling businesses.
Herrera explained how it helped that her restaurant is just a takeout window, but navigating assistance programs such as PPP was still difficult. Many businesses, she said, didn't know what to do or where to turn to survive, and that's when the Latino Restaurant Association stepped in to offer guidance.
"Organizations [were] working, saying, 'OK, you don't know how to do this, like PPP even. We are going to walk you through step one, step two, there you go, submit.' That assistance was key to a lot of people surviving," Herrera said.
The help was important because the pandemic disproportionately harmed the Latino community. They accounted for 23% of initial job loss, and women accounted for 100% of job loss, with Latina women alone equating to 45% of that, according to the Center for American Progress.
Herrera added that she has a theory as to why women were affected most.
"Potentially a language barrier, a knowledge barrier, maybe there's not the communication that's needed," she said.
Jessica Ureña, director of operations for the Latino Restaurant Association, noted that inequity was an issue even before the pandemic.
"They didn't have access to information and resources or have a relationship with their bank," she said. "They were left out of a lot of economic recovery efforts, which forced them to close temporarily or permanently."
The association created Dine Latino Restaurant Week as a way to bring business to these restaurants. Participating businesses will offer a special menu for the week, and customers can dine in or order takeout and delivery.
When asked why we should support Latino restaurants, Herrera joked, "because our food is delicious, that's number one. Supporting small business and enjoying yourself is a no-brainer."
Dine Latino Restaurant week runs through April 11. For a list of participating restaurants, please visit the association's website.