By Jonathan Turner, OurQuadCities.com
After nearly two years of leading the popular Mercado on Fifth in downtown Moline, Anamaria Rocha is leaving the nonprofit Hispanic organization for a new job.
Rocha’s last official day was Tuesday, as she will take on a new role on Dec. 1 as business manager for Iman Consulting, which is led by LaDrina Wilson (who’s also CEO of the Quad Cities Chamber).
“I am very excited about this new position,” Rocha said Tuesday morning by email. “As you know, Mercado on Fifth’s mission directly relates to supporting diversity, equity and inclusion efforts on a micro level by working to bridge equity gaps, providing a low-cost platform that is accessible by the minority community and creating a welcoming environment for diverse populations.
“My new role is the perfect next step in my career,” she said. “It will provide me the opportunity to continue to expand upon my work during my time with Mercado and directly aligns with my passions. I am looking forward to supporting Iman and am excited about the added opportunity to learn and be part of broader DEI initiatives, locally and nationally.”
The weekly Friday night market on 5th Avenue (west of 12th Street) more than doubled its attendance from 2019 to 2022, and this past season brought in $591,302 spent on food, beverages, merchandise and activities, a 92.5% increase from 2021 and up 251% since 2019.
Rocha also led creation of the first-annual Day of the Dead parade in October, and earlier this month, Mercado unveiled colorful murals that celebrate Hispanic culture on its newly renovated building at 423 12th St., Moline.
“I am very proud of my accomplishments during my time as executive director for Mercado on Fifth. The record-breaking growth during my tenure leaves the organization with a solid foundation for continued success,” Rocha said Tuesday. “Prior to holding the position of executive director I was, and will continue to be, a great supporter of Mercado. I believe in its mission and am honored to have been given the opportunity to contribute to its story and successes. It was very rewarding for me to see the community support and to hear the feedback.”
Rocha, 37, who grew up in Moline’s Floreciente neighborhood, was hired in March 2021 as Mercado’s new director, after holding positions with the economic and community development departments in the cities of Moline and Rock Island.
She was Mercado’s second director, after Melissa Friedhof-Rodgers (who was hired in fall 2019 and let go in 2020 because of that year’s cancellation of Mercado’s events due to COVID).
Mercado’s mission is to serve “as a resource and catalyst for minority entrepreneurs, inspiring Hispanic cultural pride and providing access to bilingual enrichment and educational opportunities for a more empowered and engaged community.”
“The absolute best experiences for me were being able to aid individuals in their journey to jumpstart their businesses and getting a front-row seat to their individual growth,” Rocha said Tuesday. “I also greatly enjoyed seeing the diverse crowds sharing excitement about the events. Naturally, I move on immensely fulfilled and appreciative of the support I received from the board and the community.
“I am also overly grateful that the board supported the idea behind a Día de los Muertos Parade and that the inauguration was a huge success,” she said. “I can’t wait to see what the future brings for Mercado.”
Mercado has one other full-time staff person, Montse Lopez, Market Coordinator. For more information on the group, visit its website.