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Highway 50 Revisited

Exploring one of the busiest, yet most overlooked, roadways in our region

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The owner of Colombia Bakery, Jorge Mora, opened the place about five years ago, says Castrillon, and though originally from the Republic of Colombia, Mora has been a Central Florida resident for almost 40 years. While Mora doesn’t typically frequent the bakery, save for the occasional check-in, the interior decor pays homage to his home country with a large photo on canvas of a rural Colombian farm house that hangs on the room’s prominent wall; on another wall, hangs a framed black-and-white photo collage titled “Bogotá ayer” (which translates to “Bogotá yesterday). The sizeable sign out front sits along Highway 50 in east Orange County, bearing the outline of the Republic of Colombia, with colors indicative of its national flag – yellow, blue and red (which has faded to pink).

Castrillon is one of three employees who work full-time at Colombia Bakery. During her seven years living in Central Florida, she’s worked at the bakery for the last three. When asked if she makes the pastries, she laughs, shakes her head and points to the store manager, a middle-aged Hispanic man by the name of Luis. Translating for Luis, Castrillon explains that he arrives around 6 a.m. each morning to prepare the food for the day. Castrillon is the only employee at Colombia Bakery who speaks English.

Colombia Bakery is location on Highway 50 in the Union Park area of east Orlando between Dean and Rouse roads. Situated just far enough west of the college-crazed University of Central Florida corner of Alafaya Trail and about six miles east of the buzzing intersection of Semoran Boulevard, it’s a quieter strip of Orange County’s active Colonial Drive drag. As with Colombia Bakery, surrounding businesses indicate that there’s a thriving Hispanic- and Latin-influenced community in this area: the Alamo Plaza across the street is home to Maria Bonita Mexican & Cuban Restaurant, and the Salsa Heat Dance Studio and La Casa de las Paellas restaurant are located a block or two away in either direction. “Most of our customers are Hispanic,” Castrillon says, “some Colombian and also a lot of Puerto Ricans.”

During the past 10 years, a number of neighborhoods in east and southeast Orange County, including Union Park, where Colombia Bakery is located, have seen immense growth in the number of Hispanic residents and business owners. As confirmed by one U.S. Census Bureau report obtained by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando, Orange County’s Hispanic population rose 83.09 percent from 2000 to 2010. And according to the report, in 2010, Hispanics made up 26.9 percent of the population of Orange County. For Hispanic residents in Central Florida, small cafés and businesses like Colombia Bakery offer a taste of home with familiar menu items, as well as sundries such as international calling cards and money-shipping services for those with family still living in Latin America.

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