Pig cookies: Zhenia Martinez of Charlotte bakes the best of Mexico at Las Delicias

Zhenia Martinez co-owns Las Delicias, a Latino panaderia (bakery) on Charlotte’s Central Avenue. Her parents came from Mexico to Columbia, South Carolina in 1985 when she was eleven, gaining citizenship under President Reagan’s 1986 amnesty. A government bureaucrat in Mexico, Mr. Martinez went to work in a restaurant, then moved into construction where an accident disabled him. He stocked a van with Mexican groceries and drove to small towns to sell to newly arrived Latinos. Seeing the need for a Mexican bakery in Charlotte, he and wife Margarita apprenticed to a baker back in Mexico, then in 1997 opened Las Delicias. When Mr. Martinez retired in 2011, Ms. (Zhenia) Martinez took up the work. The 2008 Recession pushed her partner, Colombian-born Manolo Betancur, to seek new markets. He loaded his car with baked goods and delivered to dozens of tiendas throughout western North Carolina and southwestern Virginia.

Learn more of Zhenia’s history in the Charlotte’s Central Avenue Corridor oral history project.