Familia Local: La Latinoamericana brings Latin American flare to Sandusky

Martha Cano and her four children certainly sacrificed much of what they had when they went out on a limb to open La Latinoamericana.

“For me, it has always been a dream of ours to open this marketplace,”  Cano says. 

Born and raised in Mexico, Cano immigrated to the United States in the mid 1990s. Her background is in the food production industry, recently working for Routh Packing in Sandusky for the past three years. She alludes to the struggles of finding groceries that her family was accustomed to eating and using to prepare meals.

“I was always driving hours a day, not for my job, but to find food and spices for our family,” she says.

This phenomenon may be familiar to one who has traveled abroad before – there comes a point in time when you begin to miss your own home cooking. Cano explains that she had traveled as far as Columbus and even Chicago to secure ingredients that taste like home for her and her family.

Martha Cano and her daughter, Luz, laugh with a customer at La Latinoamericana. (Photo/Jordan Sternberg)La Latinoamericana is a marketplace focused on bringing “home” to many local Latin Americans in the Greater Sandusky Region. Their marketplace serves many sweets, treats, spices, herbs, and foods from Latin countries, such as Mexico, Columbia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Peru.

“It makes me so happy to see the smile on my customers’ faces when I am able to get a shipment of their favorite snack or candy,” Cano says. “For them, it’s a taste of home.” 

La Latinoamericana is an amalgamation of culture. Cano and her family chose to use this name in order to welcome all Latin American cultures, not just of their own Mexican heritage.

La Latinoamericana has a ton of items in their inventory, but some familiar items might include: Samba Fresca and Pulparindo, two brands of candy; Pan, a brand of flour; many malt beverages, such as Maltin and Pony; and frozen meats, like Chorizo Tipico from Colombia.

The international marketplace also sells dried chilis for preparing various salsas, soups and enchilada sauces in addition to fresh tomatoes, cactus, potatoes (papas) and peppers. This only scratches the surface.

“If a customer comes up to me and requests an item, I will do my best to find a company that will supply our business,” Cano says.

It takes a lot for this family business to grow and thrive. Cano and her daughter, Luz, are the front face, and it takes a lot to support the growing needs and demands of the business.

“It really is a family affair,” she says. “Even my kids have put their lives on the line for La Latinoamericana to be successful.” 

Though not all of her children are involved in the day-to-day operation, they have a financial stake in the business.

La Latinoamericana serves physically as a marketplace; however, the service goes far beyond selling delectable treats from Latin nations.

“We have a small supply of medicines,” Cano says. “People trust what they’re familiar with. We not only help people fill out job applications, but we’ll even go to doctor’s appointments to translate for families at the hospital who are either sick or having a baby.” 

Cano explains that many people are working in the United States to provide for their family members back in their home countries. La Latinoamericana recently acquired the ability from their bank to wire money from those providing here in the U.S. back to their families at home in Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Columbia or otherwise. 

“They call me jefa,” says Cano, a word which translates to ‘boss.’ “We have helped so many people that the kids run up and say, ‘jefa, jefa,’ and tell me what is going on in their lives. It is a joy of mine to help serve them.” 

While Cano and her family are happy with the trajectory of the business, including being a support network for those who might miss a taste of home, they have a goal to open a restaurant at La Latinoamericana to sell burritos, tamales, and other savory hispanic dishes for their customers and lovers of Mexican cuisine alike.

Visit La Latinoamericana at 1140 Cleveland Road West in the Sandusky Plaza, and follow them on Facebook to see their latest postings of savory and delectable goods.