Nashua, N.H.’s Latin Festival brings together proud local entrepreneurs

Janeth Valdez was born in Massachusetts but now lives in Nashua, N.H.. Her mother is Puerto Rican, and her father is Dominican. She dreams that one day the Patriots cheerleaders will wear her eyeshadow palettes. (Gaby Lozada / NHPR)

Janeth Valdez wears a complicated gold eyeliner from her own makeup line. She says she has always been very feminine, so she decided to start her own makeup business.

She has given each palette a name in Spanish that represents her personality. There is “the dreamer,” “the snooper,” and “la asesina,” which she translates as “the badass.”

Valdez opened her business a year ago. She was selling makeup from a big multinational company and was tired of working for somebody else.

“I woke up one day and said, ‘I need to change my luck,’ ” she said. She planned to put all of her savings into her dream.

Valdez saw many Latinas working in her old company, so she is trying to give them more jobs to choose from, “where they can feel more confident as a community.”

Valdez was one of a handful of local, Latino-owned small businesses at the Latin Fest in Nashua, N.H., this weekend. Many share Valdez’s goal to build up the area’s Latin community through entrepreneurship. There were traditional food trucks, a football league, a dog groomer shop, a boutique, a butcher, and an auto parts stand.

Some, like Valdez’s makeup line, were founded during the pandemic.

Vicente Viafan, in the center, is originally from Los Angeles. He says he moved to New Hampshire to start fresh in a new life. (Gaby Lozada / NHPR)

At his food truck, Vicente Viafan rushes to serve lemonades, grill skewers, and prepare birria tacos with a lot of onions and cilantro bathed in a red spicy sauce. The line at his stand is long, despite the hot weather.

He opened his food truck two years ago, amid the pandemic. He says it was not easy, and he felt powerless many days, but he kept going with his team’s support.

He feels the Latino community in Nashua is very united. “It reminds me of a very small town,” he said. “It’s very important to them to support local businesses.”

Viafan hopes he can have more Latinos working with him in the future as he would like to venture into other types of businesses.

Another stand that had a lot of attention Sunday was Massiel Perez’s, adorned with pink and gold balloons. She founded an event planning business with her husband 13 years ago. They had already booked a couple of parties at the festival, so she was pretty excited.

“Latinos, we always help each other,” she said.

Among many customers, Fabiola Lazo opens her way to talk about her successful shop. La Carniceria is a butchery and traditional gifts shop where she sells tequila shots and big Mexican dolls.

Kids ask their parents for a stuffed animal, while Lazo says the key to success in business is maintaining constant contact with the community.

Valdez says Latinos are much more than a stereotype.

“We don’t just sell food; we don’t just clean really good,” she said “Look at the stuff we do. I am proud, really proud. Súper orgullosa.”

“Proud” is one of her makeup palette’s names, which has a Puerto Rican flag on it. That word translates to what these entrepreneurs say they feel after the hundreds of hours they have put into reaching their goals.

This story was originally published by New Hampshire Public Radio, a partner of the New England News Collaborative.