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Immigrant-owned businesses find success in Oklahoma

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Several years ago a Palestinian immigrant, Wes Salous, came to Oklahoma City from Dallas Texas, and  purchased an IHOP restaurant  He now owns several of those establishments in the Oklahoma City area, including the one located in Bricktown.

And Oklahoma City now has a host of eateries and other businesses that are operated by immigrants; they serve foods and beverages from Morocco, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, and a Bengladeshi restaurant recently opened on 10th St, in the Mid City area.

Trucks that sell Mexican food at locations in Oklahoma City can be seen in a variety of neighborhoods and often their customers include Anglos as well as Hispanics.

Immigrants from Africa, Asia, and the Arab world are also well represented in small businesses in the City, and Wes Salous reports that he has two brothers, Sammy and Salim, who now operate an auto repair place and a car lot respectively in the Mid-city area.

The culture and traditions that some of those immigrants have brought with them are beginning to become part of Oklahoma life as well. Dragons and the sound of firecrackers are part of the rituals that occur on Classen Boulevard during the celebration of the Chinese New Year that is now held on that thoroughfare every year. On December 12th of last year, which is the feast day for our Lady of Guadelupe, a  procession of worshippers walked from Holy Angels  Church in the MidCity area to Sacred Heart  Church on the City’s south side.

That feast day commemorates the time that the Virgin Mary appeared to a Mexican boy, Juan Diego, in the Sixteenth Century, and some of the young boys  who were part of the procession  were dressed as Juan Diego in accordance with Mexican tradition.

And some Catholic Churches  in the area  have incorporated  the Hispanic ritual  known as “Quinceanera” in which teenage girls  officially celebrate  their coming of age. In recent years Oklahoma City has become home to a sizable Muslim community, and their faith and culture are also increasingly evident in the area. There are now stores where meat is sold that have the word “Halal” on their doors that indicate  that the meat offered there was prepared in accordance with Islamic law.

During the holy month of Ramadan, in which Muslims are forbidden to eat or drink during the daylight hours, there are several restaurants that offer what are known as “Iftar’ dinners held after sunset.

Also, Governor Brad Henry has held at the Governor’s Mansion an iftar dinner that has been held at the end of Ramadan for every year that he has held that office.

And it is fitting that the culture of Oklahoma’s first residents is also being celebrated. The Red Earth Festival is held in downtown Oklahoma City every Summer, and it brings Native Americans from across the North American continent  to a celebration of Native American art and culture.

The Festival begins with a parade through down town Oklahoma City and continues for three days. And all of these events are increasingly part of the fabric of life in Oklahoma.