Latino community's food trucks part of Santa Rosa neighborhood revitalization

Santa Rosa's Roseland neighborhood celebrated a groundbreaking Thursday, and so much more.

"This is about bringing families together, providing opportunity, and creating a vision for the city," enthused Efren Carrillo, among the community leaders who posed with shovels and dirt at the Sebastopol Road site.

Officials were marking construction of the Mitote Food Park, a permanent home for food trucks. 

The space will offer picnic tables and a stage to make it a gathering space for Latinx culture. 

Several trucks are already serving regional cuisine on the site. 

"I am not sure what I just ate but it was delicious and it had a kick to it," joked Santa Rosa Vice-Mayor Natalie Rogers, drawing laughter from the audience.

The food plaza is part of a much larger project with a community center, library, park, and housing to come later.

"It's going to change Roseland in a good way, and make it a happy place," Rodrigo Mendoza, owner of the Charro Negro food truck.

Mendoza will bring his "beach and barrio" seafood dishes to the new park. 

"It's going to draw a lot of people and they're going to see the potential in Roseland and want to open something themselves, not just food, other businesses."

The neighborhood is already bustling, led by a variety of Latino-owned enterprises.

A former Dollar Store is now a market stuffed with vendor stalls and artisan goods.   

"What you see here are people who persevere, who never give up," said Carrillo, a vice-president with Burbank Housing. 

"It really has been the Latino business owners who have stepped up and are growing, coming out of the pandemic."

When complete, the Roseland Village project will also provide housing: almost 200 apartments at both affordable and market rates.

"It is the community spirit that has driven this project," said Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chairperson Lynda Hopkins, who noted the concept first emerged a decade ago. 

"It has truly been a labor of love handed down from multiple leaders that have really fought so hard to get this done," Hopkins told the audience. 

Carrillo was a county supervisor, representing Roseland, during those early discussions.

"It was one of the last deals Sonoma County worked on before redevelopment was abolished by then-Governor Jerry Brown," explained Carrillo.

"We were barely able to get this across the finish-line and purchase this site from a willing seller."

Over the years, there were challenges and changes, including annexation of the land to the city of Santa Rosa.

But now the vision will become reality.

"What's going to happen tomorrow, what lays ahead of us?," said current council member Eddie Alvarez to the crowd.

"It gives me hope, it makes me excited."

Roseland is the home to the largest Latino population in Santa Rosa.

The food park's name comes from the ancient Nahuatl language meaning a party of gathering.

"Mitote is sharing best ideas, creating best ideas," said Octavio Diaz, a restaurant-owner who is in charge of the food truck operation and future park.

Diaz says his recipe for success if simple.

"What I learned from my parents, hard work, great values, be a great person, and good things will happen to you," said Diaz. "For my family, in Sonoma County, I am the American dream."