The Latino Community in Bighamton
by Miguel Mino
The Latino presence in Binghamton, NY is growing little by little. We can see this increase based on the growing population of Spanish-speaking people who bring their culture with them. A great way to notice the development of Latino culture is through the emerging Hispanic businesses and restaurants. Recently, I had the opportunity to visit a Latino entrepreneur who managed to open his own Venezuelan restaurant in Binghamton: Happy Pappi Arepas Bar.
After enjoying two delicious chicken and shrimp arepas, I had the pleasure of talking to Luis Cardillo, the owner of this restaurant. Luis was born in Caracas, Venezuela, just like the rest of his family. He moved several times within his country until he arrived in the United States six years ago. Upon his arrival, Luis noted that the Venezuelan culture was nowhere to be found in Binghamton. In fact, he says there weren’t many Latino places to go to eat and enjoy, so he decided to take action. Beginning with his mobile food cart, similar to hot dog carts, he dedicated himself to selling arepas throughout the Binghamton community, starting with the local farmers markets. First, he began to make his presence known in an organic fashion. Instead of promoting his business through social media, he turned to word-of-mouth promotion. This was the first step Luis took to becoming an active member of his community while also bringing his Venezuelan culture to Binghamton. Today, he has his very own website (https://happypappi.wixsite.com/happypappi) and also his Instagram page (@happypappiny) in which he promotes his food and business.
Inspired by the success of his arepas cart and his experience as a food and beverage manager in various establishments, he decided to open the doors of his new business. Luis offers a very great variety of Venezuelan foods, starting with his delicious arepas. The menu includes chicken, shrimp, shredded meat arepas, and other options. Luis says he is dedicated to keeping all his food as authentic as possible, starting with the ingredients for his arepas. Even with the sauces he offers, Luis maintains the culinary integrity of his meals, using fresh and traditional ingredients. In addition to the excellent food he serves, Luis also has a fully functional bar where clients can sit and enjoy drinks of their choice. Although the restaurant was recently established in October 2022, it has the potential to be a successful local eatery.
Happy Pappi Arepas Bar is a restaurant that symbolizes much more than Hispanic food. This restaurant helps us remember that it is never too late to establish a cultural presence in foreign places. Luis wants to maintain a business where people can come in and feel comfortable in his establishment full of flavor and culture. Whenever people come in, he maintains a friendly environment in which he can form relationships with his clients, just as he did with me. By doing this, Luis is continually helping maintain the Latino presence in Binghamton for years to come.
Miguel Mino is a student at Binghamton University. He is a Spanish major currently taking the course Spanish in the Community.