10+ Hispanic people making history in Charlotte today

10+ Hispanic people making history in Charlotte today

Hector Cortes organizes supporters at Charlotte FC’s inaugural home match at Bank of America Stadium on March 5, 2022. Photo: Travis Dove/Axios

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Hispanic Heritage Month runs Sept. 15-Oct. 15, but members of Charlotte’s Hispanic communities are shaping Charlotte every day.

State of play: Immigration to Charlotte began picking up in the 1980s, when North Carolina farmers began recruiting migrant workers from Mexico and Central America to fill gaps in their labor force, as Chuck McShane wrote for UNC-Charlotte’s Urban Institute in 2020.

  • Today, the Charlotte area continues to become more diverse, with Hispanic and Latino populations surging, especially in rural or suburban areas.
  • Hispanic professionals increasingly fill top ranks in a range of sectors, from banking to community advocacy, education to hospitality, media to tech.

Here are 10+ Hispanic Charlotteans shaping the city.

Editor’s note: Names are listed alphabetically. This is not a ranking. 

José Alvarez

As the Charlotte-based vice president of Prospera USA, Alvarez provides bilingual services to Latino entrepreneurs around Charlotte and oversees programming intended to promote economic opportunities for small business owners. Alvarez serves on the board of a number of organizations, including the NC Rural Center. He’s also a community advisory board member at WFAE.

José Alvarez. Photo: Courtesy of José Alvarez

José Alvarez. Photo: Courtesy of José Alvarez

Diego Barahona and the La Noticia team

We at Axios get to see firsthand the work the La Noticia team puts in to ensure their community is represented. At press conferences and news events, editor Diego Barahona and the La Noticia team ask questions that matter most to Charlotte’s Latino populations. Plus, their work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic was invaluable in communicating information along to Spanish speakers.

Diego Barahona. Courtesy of Diego Barahona

La Noticia editor, Diego Barahona. Photo: Courtesy of Diego Barahona

Manolo Betancur

Betancur’s reach is felt not only in Charlotte with his east Charlotte bakery, Manolo’s Bakery, but across the globe. He traveled to Eastern Europe to help refugees and Ukrainian bakers recover from Russia’s invasion. He also travels to rural parts of North Carolina to deliver fresh bread to migrant workers on Christmas tree farms.

Go deeper: Charlotte baker will travel to Ukraine to help rebuild bakery invaded by Russian soldiers

Manolo's bakery

Manolo Betancur (center) delivering letters written by Charlotteans to Ukrainian refugees in Poland. Photo: Courtesy of Manolo Betancur

Hector Cortes

You probably know Cortes, a Mexico native, as “Sombrero Man,” and you’ve probably seen him at Charlotte Hornets, Charlotte FC or Carolina Panthers games. He inspires a sense of community both in the classroom as a teacher and as a sports superfan, leading thousands of Charlotte FC supporters in chants over 90 minutes.

Hector Cortes organizes supporters at Charlotte FC’s inaugural home match at Bank of America Stadium on March 5, 2022. Photo: Travis Dove/Axios

Hector Cortes organizes supporters at Charlotte FC’s inaugural home match at Bank of America Stadium on March 5, 2022. Photo: Travis Dove/Axios

Ric Elias

Elias is the founder and CEO of Red Ventures, which the New York Times called the biggest digital media company in America,” with thousands of employees across multiple continents. A billionaire philanthropist who has vowed to give away half his wealth, Elias was also a passenger on Charlotte-bound flight 1549 which Capt. C.B. “Sully” Sullenberger safely landed on the Hudson River.

  • Elias, who’s from Puerto Rico, is outspoken on social issues, and he’s long acted as a behind-the-scenes adviser to many of our city’s top officials.

Go deeper: Charlotte museum unveils new name for famed Captain Sully

 Red Ventures CEO Ric Elias (left) and Capt. C.B. “Sully” Sullenberger was a passenger on flight 1549. Elias donated $1 million to the project. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios

Red Ventures CEO Ric Elias (left) and Capt. C.B. “Sully” Sullenberger. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios

Dalton Espaillat

Espaillat, a native of the Dominican Republic, founded Raydal Hospitality Group, which includes restaurants like Sabor Latin Street Grill, La Caseta and Three Amigos.

  • He first got a taste of the restaurant industry in 2010, when he and his wife Miriam (who’s from El Salvador) took on the task of saving a struggling Mexican restaurant — La Casa de Las Enchiladas, which then became Three Amigos Mexican Grill & Cantina.
  • Four years later, they launched Sabor Latin Street Grill. Now, Raydel Hospitality Group owns and operates 19 restaurants in the Charlotte area and the Carolinas. 
Photo: Courtesy of Dalton Espaillat

Photo: Courtesy of Dalton Espaillat

Krista Jasso

Jasso, who works for NASCAR, can also be found around the city photographing everything from Major League Soccer to NFL and minor league baseball games. You’ve probably seen her on the sidelines at a Charlotte FC match. She was part of Charlotte FC’s all-female photography team for their inaugural match.

  • She’s inspiring the next generation, as one mother told her over the weekend.
Krista Jasso shooting a Charlotte FC match. Photo: Taylor Banner/Courtesy of Charlotte FC

Krista Jasso shooting a Charlotte FC match. Photo: Taylor Banner/Courtesy of Charlotte FC

Chef Bruno Macchiavello

This Peru native co-owns of one of Charlotte’s best restaurantsYunta Nikkei, which combines Japanese and Peruvian fare.
  • Before opening the hit South End restaurant, he and his partner Randy Garcia opened VIVA Chicken in Elizabeth in 2013. The fast-casual chicken chain now has 17 locations across the south.
Chef Bruno of Yunta and Viva Chicken.

Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

Gina Navarette

Navarette, a native of Chile, is a community activist and co-president of the Charlotte Women’s March, which draws crowds of demonstrators every year. She ran for city council in 2019 but came up short of defeating her District 6 opponent Tariq Bokhari. To-date, Charlotte has never had a Latino city council representative.

Headshot courtesy of Gina Navarette

Rafael Prieto

Originally from Colombia, this veteran journalist has been telling the stories of Hispanic communities in Charlotte for more than two decades. He’s currently the editorial director of Qué Pasa-Mi Gente, a Spanish newspaper for the Carolinas.

  • He has been an advocate for Latinos in Charlotte since moving here permanently in 2001, as QC Nerve reported.
  • Prieto is also the co-founder of the nonprofit Comité de Fiestas Patrias y Tradiciones de Charlotte (Charlotte’s Patriotic Celebrations and Traditions Committee), which celebrates the independence of Ibero-American countries.
Rafael Prieto

Photo: Courtesy of Rafael Prieto

The Suárez family

You’ve probably been to Suárez Bakery in Park Road Shopping Center or Optimist Hall, but the family’s legacy extends beyond pastries.

  • Roberto Suárez, who was exiled from Cuba, was president of The Charlotte Observer decades ago.
  • Carlos Suárez, Roberto’s son, opened Suárez Bakery in 1992 in Park Road Shopping Center.
  • Tony Suárez, also one of Roberto’s children, was one of Charlotte’s first sports icons. He played for the Carolina Lightnin’.
  • Ana Suárez Fleming works for NASCAR Productions. She also founded Inspire to Live  to address suicide prevention and awareness. 
Suárez Bakery. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

Suárez Bakery. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

Tony Suárez. Photo: Courtesy of the Carolina Lightnin’

Reader nominees

David Rebolloso nominated his wife Bibiana Villafrade: “I would like to introduce you to my beautiful wife, Bibiana Villafrade, from Bogota, Colombia. She and I have a business on North Tryon St. where we serve many Latino clients. I want to give her recognition because she is a very hard-working, very enterprising, tireless person and she loves to help our Latin compatriots a lot.”
  • Of note: Rebolloso’s quote was translated from Spanish to English.  

Other nominees include:

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