La Esperanza Super Panaderia, a Hispanic market on Pleasantburg Drive across the street from BJU, provides a welcoming and intercultural experience for the students of BJU.
The store offers a wide selection of products convenient for students, including grocery essentials such as milk and rice, a greater variety of fresh produce than is available in most chain grocery stores and a bakery offering traditional Hispanic baked goods. For students seeking a hot meal, the food truck stationed outside the market offers authentic tacos.
According to Ricardo, the store’s owner, BJU students have been a constant and welcome stream of patronage since the store’s opening in 2010. Many come simply to shop or eat tacos from the taco truck, often pairing them with a cold soda from the store. Some come regularly to practice Spanish and find more than just a store. “They kind of become more than a customer—friends,” Ricardo said. “I think that’s the fun part.”
Since the pandemic, Ricardo has seen the number of visitors dwindle and said he missed the opportunity to interact with BJU students. But despite the setbacks of COVID-19, some students have continued to make the short trek to visit the market.
For Seth Johnson, a senior journalism and mass communication major, visits to La Esperanza have been a direct cultural experience that give a perspective beyond Greenville. “It’s just kind of another reminder that the way we do things in the America is not the only way to do things,” Johnson said.
Johnson shopped at the market to bring Hispanic foods to an event organized by Dr. Miriam Patterson, a BJU faculty member who teaches several Spanish language and culture courses. According to Johnson, the short shopping trip to the Hispanic market placed him in a culture other than his own, giving him a glimpse into a new perspective.
“I think it’s a very small snapshot of how international students feel when they come to the U.S.,” Johnson said. “I think that’s a good experience to have, even if it is on a very small scale.”
Macy McArthur, a senior Spanish education major, has visited the store for Patterson’s classes along with her friend Millie Dersch, a junior nursing student. Dersch shopped for a specific soda she had tried for the first time while in Peru. She said she was pleasantly surprised to find the soda in Greenville at a store set up just like those she visited in Peru.
McArthur agreed that a trip across the bridge to La Esperanza provides a significant experience. “You can see the culture just from walking into the store,” McArthur said.
“It’s just kind of another reminder that the way we do things in America is not the only way to do things.” -Seth Johnson
For some students, the atmosphere provided by La Esperanza may be a small taste of home. Ana Sierra, a senior child development major from Honduras, said the store is a favorite of hers, partially because of its convenience. But for Sierra, the food offered by the store reminds her of food from her home. For any student looking to try something from a culture outside of Greenville, Sierra recommends a visit to La Esperanza Super Panaderia. “Go and ask around, what do the people there recommend?” Sierra said.
But the store offers much more than just its culture and hospitality for students. According to Emily Clements, a junior graphic design major, while a snapshot of another culture inside Greenville is a worthy experience, she has also made good use of the store’s wares for dorm cooking, including making a batch of guacamole with the store’s fresh produce.
Autumn Buchanan, a junior business major, also stressed the convenience of the food offered by La Esperanza. Buchanan visited the taco truck outside the market her freshman year with her discipleship group. She noted that the people who worked in the store or food truck were very welcoming and happy to help customers learn about what the store offered. “They were very eager to share their way of life with us,” Buchanan said.
But Buchanan was most impressed by the quality and convenience of what the market and truck offered. “The tacos are delicious, go get them!” Buchanan said.