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Sacramento's 'hidden treasure' of Hispanic culture | To The Point

Northgate and Gardenland are home to many Hispanic and Latino families. And now, the hope is to make it a destination for visitors and locals alike.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — It's described as a hidden treasure of Hispanic culture in the city of Sacramento. 

Northgate and Gardenland are home to many Hispanic and Latino families. And now, the hope is to make it a destination for visitors and locals alike. 

Meet Johnny Quintero 

Packed with flavor, family recipes passed down generations inspire Johnny Quintero.

“Every day it’s a good reminder to focus on why you’re doing it and why you work so hard," said Quintero, manager of Tacos La Piedad. "If nobody else is going to do the job for you you have to get it done yourself.” 

He says the success of Tacos La Piedad goes to his father — a Mexican immigrant who began serving up tacos in his backyard before expanding to one of the first taco truck businesses in Sacramento. 

Three generations have built it into 30 years of success.  

“It inspires me so much because he came here with nothing," Quintero said. "He got the idea I can’t be busting my back working for somebody else when I can do it myself, and I know I can cook delicious food. That inspires me.” 

The business operates in a parking lot, one of the focuses of a $ 5 million investment to transform Northgate Boulevard.

Investing in Northgate

Credit: ABC10
Northgate Blvd and Peralta Ave street sign

This July, the Sacramento city council approved one-time funds to ensure public safety and attract customers to Northgate businesses including traffic calming measures, new fencing, and a food truck plaza where Tacos La Piedad and others operate.  

“I think this investment and doing a project like this is going to put a highlight in the area,“ Quintero said.

The busy corridor bisects Northgate and Gardenland, which are two Sacramento communities with the highest concentration of Hispanic and Latino families.  

It’s an area that’s been in a cocoon, according to Marbella Sala of the Northgate, Gardenland Neighborhood Association. 

"It's an old community," said Sala. "It's a hidden treasure, but because it's hidden sometimes we get forgotten."

Once a rural agriculturally-driven community — its urban transformation began when homes were built in the area between 1920.

Development stalled due to a lack of funding during the Great Depression due to a lack of funding. Migrants settled in the area — and by the 1950s, Northgate Boulevard became the transportation route for McClellan Air Force Base.

Supplies were often shipped by boat and docked off Garden Highway. 
Officials widened Northgate Boulevard to accommodate traffic and today it is still a speedway with several crashes every week. 

The lack of public safety and beautification investments in the area Sala says has been a continuing challenge she’s witnessed in her three decades living here.

"Not much has changed," said Sala.

Until recently, in addition to the $5 million earmarked for the neighborhood, there will be a vibrant mural featuring local Aztec dancers, marigolds, and monarch butterflies.

It markings what Sala believes will be the community’s emergence from its cocoon into a destination. 

"It's an international food mecca on Northgate and people are getting to know that more," Sala said.

The private-public partnership to improve the area, she hopes will make Northgate boulevard a destination.

"I want color, I want vibrancy," said Sala. "If you see Northgate, it's kind of dull, we're not a dull culture and we're not a dull people."

Watch: Hispanic Heritage Month | Meet West Sacramento Mayor Martha Guerrero

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