Why Coraopolis is becoming a community hub for Pittsburgh’s growing Latino population
Updated: Sep 9, 2022
Photo by Rayni Shiring/Pittsburgh City Paper
Grand opening of Honduran restaurant, Five Stars Honduras on Saturday, August 6, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
This feature is the first in a series of articles focusing on the growing Latino communities in Pittsburgh, co-published with Pittsburgh City Paper, Pittsburgh Latino Magazine, and the Gazette 2.0.
By Jamie Wiggan
Ever Castillo just opened what he suspects is Pennsylvania’s first Honduran restaurant outside of Philadelphia.
His chosen location — Coraopolis — was until recently known mostly as a sleepy river town 10 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, hemmed in by water, trees, and steep hillsides. But a burst of redevelopment has coincided with an influx of Latino residents, returning the town to something more resembling its early 20th century past, where incoming workers from Italy and the Balkans contributed to decades of vibrant growth.
Castillo has lived in the Pittsburgh area for the past eight years after first entering the U.S. from Honduras by way of Maryland, where he spent nearly two decades. He settled in Cranberry initially, but has since joined a growing number of Latinos making their home in Coraopolis.
Opening Five Stars Honduras Restaurant on the town’s main thoroughfare, he says, is an attempt to meet the new community’s growing need for services and amenities.
“That's the reason we came up with the idea to open a restaurant, you know, ’cause everybody's complaining because there’s nothing good,” says Castillo, who celebrated the restaurant’s grand opening on Aug. 6. “It's just the normal [places] like McDonald's and Burger King and all that. But everybody's tired.”
Just two blocks down the same street, Luis Berumen and his brothers are preparing to expand their acclaimed Las Palmas brand with a new location combining a large grocery store with a dine-in eatery.
The future location of a Las Palmas Grocery Store is seen in downtown Coraopolis on July 31, 2022.
Having set the standard for authentic Mexican fare in the Pittsburgh food scene at their Beechview location, Berumen says the family is branching out to Coraopolis for a simple reason: “Lots of people are moving here.”
According to census data, the Latino population in Coraopolis leaped from around 100 residents in 2010 to nearly 350 in 2020, while across the county, the rate of growth has been far slower.
Nationwide, census records show the number of Latinos in the U.S. rose by nearly 12 million between 2010 and 2020, bringing the total population to 62 million by the end of the decade. This reflects a slightly slower pace than the preceding 10 years, where more than 15 million Latinos were added to the national population.
Most of those interviewed for this story initially settled in another state after leaving their homeland before arriving more recently in Coraopolis. Together, they represent multiple Central and South American nationalities.
According to the Allegheny County Latinx Needs Assessment 2021, a study commissioned by the county’s department of human services, just over half of foreign-born Latinos in Allegheny County originated from Mexico, while about a fourth came from Guatemala and 15% from El Salvador. Beyond these large groupings, the study shows that foreign-born Latinos in the county hail from all over the Spanish-speaking world.
“Many people come from Honduras, Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador,” says Veronica Martinez, a store manager at the La Poblanita Mexican grocery store in Coraopolis, where she has lived and worked for around two years.
While the store she works in brands itself as Mexican, Martinez is from Guatemala, and she says Latino customers of all nationalities see themselves as a united community in the borough.
The reason Latinos are moving to Coraopolis, according to Jenny Diaz, a healt