Rico Pan is my favorite bakery in the world. It’s cheap and it’s local. It is a minute’s walk away from my home in Hialeah, FL, which has the second-highest percentage of Spanish-speakers in the U.S.
A step inside this Colombian bakery is an instant trip to Latin America. At seven o’clock in the morning, it begins to bustle with sounds of reggaeton and milk-guzzling espresso machines, and the buttery smell of pan de bono fuses with the strong fragrance of Cuban coffee.
A bakery like this is hard to find, even in a country as diverse as America. Its unique combination of sights, smells, sounds, and people, as I experience it, can’t be duplicated anywhere else. It is this bakery that has showed me the value of “going local.”
The local movement has become a central framework of sustainability in the past decade. Communities around the world are urged to support local agriculture, business, and art. The Transition Town Movement in the UK, for instance, envisions a world in which local communities become economically self-sufficient.
Globalization, meanwhile, continues to be a fact of life. Even as we strive to make our footprint more local, we remain global at heart. We are urged to “Act locally, think globally.” We gravitate to travel and treasures on distant shores. We convey our thoughts and desires through hashtags as if to invite agreement or sympathy from the community at large. We have one foot in our home village and the other in the vast, global metropolis beyond us.
Consequently, it is rare for an action to be either purely local or global. In a diverse community like mine, it can be both.
Stepping into Rico Pan is an experience that is at once local and global. While I don’t have to travel far to access the bakery, it satisfies my fantasies of sampling food and culture right in Colombia. I feel like a tourist even though I am a regular customer. I order in broken Spanish and hover over the pastry window with wide-eyed curiosity. I survey the decor and the “locals” with the delight and innocence of a first-time patron. I am a lourist–a local tourist.
But no matter the language or cultural differences, at Rico Pan, I always feel at home. The bakery’s pan de bono and ambience are signature elements of my neighborhood. Through my visits there, I have come to regard local less as a strict blueprint for sustainability than simply as a way to appreciate one’s own community.
After all, localism is not an environmental magic bullet. Planting rooftop gardens, buying local crafts, and supporting neighborhood bakeries is not a 1-2-3 formula for reversing global climate change and resource depletion.
What localism can be is a way of appreciation. For some, it is a lifestyle choice, while for others, it is merely an instinct for what’s truly irreplaceable. For me, it is simply a reminder that the special things in life can be just a minute’s walk away.