Dominican Diaspora


New member
Feb 17, 2006
Here's an interesting article on Dominicans doing business in Florida:

Dominicans in Florida find Mexican cuisine is profitable

Haines City, Florida.? Mexicans are the largest Hispanic group living in Haines City, but when it comes to food, a large percentage of them are turning to Dominicans.

At least four small convenience stores, or "bodegas", in Haines City catering to Mexicans by selling their products or food are owned by Dominican immigrants or descendents.

Juan Tejada, owner of El Zocalo, said the Dominicans who are coming to Haines City are looking for the same opportunities other Dominicans have already found here.

"We simply come here to work because there is business growth potential," Tejada said. "Mexicans are the majority. It's a good business and it's profitable."

And all store owners by coincidence have followed each other's steps of leaving the fast and lively scene of the New York City area to settle in Polk County and to open a Mexican shop.

Most of them left the big city for the same reasons: the high cost of living, sky-rocketing home prices and the hope of opening a convenience store or another lucrative business.

In the New York City area, small grocery stores and beauty salons are a signature of the Dominican dominance.

In Haines City, Dominicans are slowly beginning to make their mark.

A look at El Zocalo Discount Food Store, La Placita Mexico, Haines City Deli and Mi Ranchito is proof of that.

These Mexican stores carry the unique twist of the Dominican Republic and the sound of bachata or merengue music in the background.

Luis Martinez Fernandez, professor of Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of Central Florida, said what's happening in Haines City is not unique.

"Culturally, Dominicans have in common a big managerial spirit," Fernandez said.

"You can see it in the Dominican Republic, in New York and New Jersey. And here in Central Florida, that spirit is reproducing remarkably."

In the Orlando and Kissimmee areas, for example, a number of Cuban restaurants have been recently bought by Dominicans. Those restaurants continue to cater Cuban food but are owned by Dominicans, Fernandez said.

Havana's Cafe on U.S. 92 in Kissimmee is on that list.

The phenomenon also follows a general pattern of Dominicans who migrate from the North to the South.

Many of them bring enough cash to make a new start after selling their homes or businesses at the high prices of the New York area market demands.

"They often come here with the experience of operating a business," Martinez Fernandez said. "In some cases, they sell their homes in New York or New Jersey and that provides them enough capital to open a new business and purchase a larger home here."

That's somewhat Tejada's story.

The first Mexican store owned by a Dominican in the Haines City area was El Zocalo Food Discount Store on U.S. 17-92.

Tejada, 34, bought El Zocalo along with his father and brother from another Dominican businessman five years ago.

Tejada and his family owned a laundry service business in Flushing, Queens, in New York City before moving to Central Florida.

"My father had been working in bodegas for the last 44 years," Tejada said. "He knew the business and saw an opportunity here."

Between 80 percent and 90 percent of Tejada's customers visit the store on a weekly basis, he said.

"Mexicans are loyal customers," Tejada said. "They don't mind spending if you provide them with a variety of the authentic products they can only find in their country of origin."

Some of the Mexican products you can find at El Zocalo are Maseca, a tortilla corn mix, and Jarritos, the first national soda drink in Mexico.



Apr 28, 2006
Seems like the same phenomenon of the bodegas in NYC. Once owned mainly by Puerto Ricans and then sold to Dominicans as they moved on to greener pastures. Goes to show you it does not matter who the owner is as long as the food is good as well as the service. Much success to them.



As someone who lived in the Central Florida area I can concurr that a majority of the bodegas and restaurant owners seem to be Dominican. BTW if your ever in Kissimmee, check out "El Sabor Domincano" on 192, they have live music at times and a mean bistec encebollado.

Also, the king of empanadas is Casa De Las Empanadas on W. Oak Ridge. They fill up quick at lunch with a surprising number of gringos que se hartan eating at McD's! BTW go for the ropa vieja - you won't be dissapointed.