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The Impact of the Pandemic on South Seattle Immigrants and Small Businesses Owners

By Aranza S. Medrano-Guillen

A street view of a closed minimart in South Seattle behind a chain link fence. The side of the building has some graffiti and written is HAPPY RETIREMENT 15 YEARS in red.
A street view of a closed minimart in South Seattle.

The smell of carne asada from the neighbor’s house, the paletero’s repeated songs passing through my neighborhood, the constant barking from the neighbor dog down the block, the number 7 bus that goes from Waters Ave S & S Fletcher St. to Virginia St. & 4th Ave. That is the place I call home; The South End.

2020 was a year of both wins and losses.The Australian bushfires that eliminated an estimated 3 billion wildlife in Australia, the COVID-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement that shed light on the injustices of today's system, as well the impeachment of Donald Trump and the 2020 presidential election which removed Trump from office. This year had brought many fear, and others hope for a new beginning, but to South King County neighborhoods it had brought agony and distress. Cities like Rainier Valley, Beacon Hill, and Skyway are all located in the South End of Seattle. The populations within these communities are mostly made up of people of color and immigrants, who have been tremendously impacted by this pandemic. Things like support for small businesses within South Seattle were very limited. According to an article by the Seattle Times, “The Renton Chamber of Commerce members are small-business owners, and many of them didn’t receive federal aid because they didn’t meet the requirements to apply, or funding in the first round ran dry before their applications were processed.” After the pandemic it was clear how little support small businesses had from the government, leading many to close their doors.

A street view of South Seattle at an intersection, a bus a few cars are passing by with trees and buildings in the background.
A street view of South Seattle at an intersection.

In addition to the lack of help given to small businesses, there was a lack of help given to immigrants in America. The reason I bring this up is because Rainier Valley, one of the cities in the South End, since the 1980s had an increase in immigrant population. These once thought to be dangerous neighborhoods are now filled with culture. But ever since this pandemic, immigrants have not been receiving the financial support they so desperately need. For example, my parents, residents of the South End, are undocumented and were cut from working hours. My mother even lost her job due to COVID-19, and because of her documentation status, she cannot receive unemployment nor a stimulus check. This has been an ongoing experience over the past year for many undocumented residents of the South End, and has impacted Rainier Valley heavily. “America’s most diverse ZIP code, the Census Bureau reports, is 98118 —” says the Seattle Times. Rainier Valley, like many South Seattle neighborhoods, is filled with culture, and talent. Places like the Northwest Tap Connection Studio, three minutes away from my house, and the amazing restaurant down the street from me called Kaffa Coffee and Wine Bar, are perfect examples. However these small businesses were ultimately impacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of help they have received over the year.

A street view in South Seattle. A streetlight, some houses, and trees.
A street view in South Seattle.

It is important for people to know about these issues in order to help out these struggling communities. Bringing more awareness into these issues and how it affects people of color and immigrants is key to making a difference in my community. You can support South Seattle communities directly by donating to food banks, if you know any immigrants residing in South Seattle inform them about relief funds, and support small businesses to help my community thrive.


Aranza, with tan skin and long dark hair, takes a selfie in a car in a blue and white sweatshirt.

Aranza S. Medrano Guillen is a 16 year old student at Cleveland STEM high school in Beacon Hill, and has been a South End resident her whole life. She was inspired to write this piece after watching how the pandemic impacted both her community and her family. She also is a part of the Rise Up program which provides care and aid to homeless people around Seattle. In the future she wants to pursue a career in environmental science.

Photos provided by Aranza S. Medrano Guillen

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