SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Jacky’s Restaurant owner Jacky Vanloh was born in Guatemala, but she now owns this and two other restaurants bearing her name in Sioux Falls.
Here at a table in her restaurant she’s joined by Alex Ramirez: born in Mexico, now the vice chair of the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors.
Across from him is pastor Otto Garcia: born in Guatemala, former U.S. Army combat medic and current chaplain for the Sioux Falls Police Department.
Next to him is Roosevelt High School senior Kiara Casillas Carrillo, born in the United States to Mexican and Guatemalan parents.
Finally, there’s Mónica Conover: born in Mexico, now a teacher at Lincoln High School.
The quintet is just an example of Sioux Falls’ diversity. A round table discussion begins with a look at how the Hispanic community is changing in South Dakota.
“The community is really changing, especially here in Sioux Falls. The diverse community is really growing, especially the Hispanic community. I moved here eight years ago, and I would not see a whole lot of Hispanic people around,” Ramirez said. “Nowadays, I just see a lot of Hispanic people.”
He says this presents a challenge, too.
“Because all of these new people that we see, we have to make sure that they feed into our community, that they aren’t just out in the shadows,” Ramirez said.
“With me going to Roosevelt, last year I started a club called ‘Latinos Unidos,’ and we started off with 10 kids, just Hispanic, 10 kids,” Casillas Carrillo said. “Then it grew up to 30, and this year, believe we have 70.”
One of the themes that emerged in the conversation is pride in who they are.
“I’m glad that I’m Hispanic, I’m glad to say I’m Latina, even though I was born here in the United States,” Casillas Carrillo said.
Garcia brings up his parents, and their arrival in the United States.
“They came with the dream to do something in America that they were not able to do in their countries,” Garcia said. “So whenever you see Latinos in Sioux Falls shopping around, remember we are bringing finances to the city, and the city needs to understand that.”
Ramirez says he feels responsibility as a Latino in Sioux Falls.
“I feel that my job here, for one thing, is just to inform the Hispanic community about things that I know and that I find about, and that they don’t know about,” Ramirez said.
The group has warm words for Sioux Falls and the United States.
“Thanks to this country for the education for my kids, and God-willing my kids go forward, and that they’re proud of being Mexican-Americans,” Conover said in Spanish.
“Sioux Falls has opened doors for me, and I have a lot of family that depend on me,” Vanloh said in Spanish.
“This city gives the welcome,” Garcia said in Spanish. “He who wants to progress in this city, he’s going to achieve it.”
“At the store that I work, people are so happy because they have someone that speaks Spanish,” Casillas Carrillo said.
When asked what it means to be Hispanic in Sioux Falls, Vanloh responds simply, in Spanish.
“Significa éxito,” Vanloh said. “Mucho éxito.”
This translates to “it means success, a lot of success” in English. It’s simple, clear and self-evident: just look around the table.
Tuesday night you’ll be able to see even more of the above round table discussion; this will be part of KELOLAND News’ Hidden History special for National Hispanic American Heritage Month airing at 6:30 p.m. CT on MyUTV. The special will air again in its entirety on Sunday on Inside KELOLAND after the late local news.