Latino owned small businesses are among the most impacted by this pandemic


According to a study by the Stanford Latino Initiative, over the past decade, Latinos have launched more small businesses than any other demographic in this country. In 2019, they contributed nearly $500B to the U.S. economy in annual sales. While these businesses are a critical part of the U.S. economy, Latino-owned businesses are among the most impacted by this pandemic.

This year sure is a wild ride. The global pandemic reached the US earlier this year and froze everything until further notice. People are staying home as much as they possibly can, and it is affecting businesses all over the country. Small local businesses are feeling the pinch as well. La Cuscatleca, a Salvadorian restaurant in Des Moines, Iowa is one of these small businesses.

Marcial Leiva & Mirian Leiva with their son Jaime Leiva.

La Cuscatleca: Pupuseria and Restaurant was established in 2010 by Marcial Leiva and Mirian Leiva a hard-working immigrant couple from El Salvador.


“We wanted to provide an authentic Salvadorian Food experience to the people of Iowa,” Jaime Leiva, one of the sons of the owners, explained.

The amazing authentic taste of the traditional Salvadorian pupusas put this restaurant on the map. Residents of Des Moines loved the food making La Cuscatleca into a successful restaurant. After moving to a new location a few months ago the successful 10-year run of La Cuscatleca was interrupted by this year’s pandemic. Businesses everywhere are struggling to learn to operate during the new “normal”. Everyone is trying different ways to protect their employees and customers.

In order to make sure that their employees and customers stay as safe as possible, the owners of La Cuscatleca made a difficult decision of temporarily closing their business.


“We have completely closed our operation until June 1,” Mr. Leiva said.

He also explained that while things have not reached a critical point yet, financial trouble will be devastating to them if things do not improve by August.


“We are hanging on financially but could be in deep financial trouble if this situation extends until August/September,” Jaime Leiva stated.


The Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative administered a survey on the effects of the crisis to 224 mostly scaled ($1 million-plus revenue) Latino-owned businesses in the United States, nearly two-thirds say they will be out of business in six months if current trends continue. The findings were alarming: 86% of respondents reported immediate negative effects ranging from project delays to complete closure. And almost two-thirds said they would not be able to sustain their businesses for more than six months if the restrictions were kept in place.

While taking into account the possible financial instability, the owners of La Cuscatleca also are trying to envision the future in the new “normal” we are all dealing with worldwide.


“We will have to adopt new procedures to protect our clients and employees,” Mr. Leiva shared a little about their plans for the immediate future. “Do as much as we can to prevent contact until this virus has been eradicated.”

Small local businesses are struggling, but many are trying to hang in there hoping for the tide to turn and things to get back to some kind of “normal”. With a little luck and good planning, they will survive and thrive in the near future.

“Small businesses are in our thoughts and know that we will bounce back even stronger once this is all over,” Jaime Leiva shared words of encouragement in support of other small businesses in the Des Moines area. “Hang in there and don’t give up.”

The businesses that have been hardest hit by the pandemic don’t have a lot of time to rebound. Almost two-thirds of respondents of the Stanford survey — 65% — said they can continue operating for up to six months under the current restrictions. This includes 71% of unscaled firms and 59% of scaled firms.

La Cuscatleca: Pupuseria and Restaurant is located at 1240 E 14th Street, Des Moines, IA. It is currently scheduled to reopen on June 1. Please follow them on Facebook for updated information about safe reopening.

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