Guadalupe Barba doesn’t like to talk much about herself.
Lupita, as she’s known, prefers to focus her attention on others.
So when she found out she was a finalist in abc27’s Remarkable Women contest, it was an honor she immediately wanted to share.
“For me, it was a big surprise,” she said. “I feel proud for my community.”
Lupita owns La Placita de Lebanon, a Mexican Restaurant on Cumberland Street with her husband, Sergio. She serves up authentic dishes from her hometown of Mexico City.
“People really enjoy the salsa I make,” she said smiling. “Good tacos require a good salsa.”
But Lupita’s desire to feed others goes far beyond her menu. From the time she came to America in 2003, she knew she wanted to feed the soul of this Latino community. She was a special education teacher in Mexico, but found that here she struggled just to communicate.
“For me the main concern at the beginning was I couldn’t help my son,” she said. “I’m a teacher and I couldn’t help my son because I didn’t speak English.”
Over the years, Lupita has not only learned to communicate but become a bridge for so many in her community. She helps enroll kids in school and find people medical care and translators. She helps people navigate immigration paperwork and has even helped families to plan funerals. She carries just about any burden that someone chooses to share with her.
“I am very grateful to what this town has given me and I’m very grateful to all the people I have met,” Lupita said.
Lupita started Juntos de Lebanon, a community center that sits above the restaurant. There, people can participate in everything from music lessons to reading lessons. So when the pandemic hit, it was Lupita that this community turned to for help.
“During the pandemic, we had so many, so many questions,” she said.
She worked to get answers and resources, helping people access thermometers, masks, hand sanitizer and information in Spanish. At the height of the pandemic, she helped to pass out masks and other PPE to workers at local meat processing facilities. And when the time came, she even hosted vaccination clinics inside the restaurant.
“On Sundays this becomes like a vaccination party,” she said. “Once a month it’s like a party.”
In all, she’s helped more than 350 people get their shots.
“You can tell that people trust her,” said Marcela Myers, who nominated Lupita for the contest. “In a community that has a lot of challenges…the Latino communities across Central Pennsylvania have a lot of challenges, so when they find somebody they trust they gravitate to that person. And that’s what we see here in Lebanon with her.”
“Especially as women, we help each other with the heart and with the soul,” Lupita added.
The following is Myers’ written nomination for Lupita:
“Guadalupe Barba is not ordinary person. Lupita is the executive director of Juntos de Lebanon, an organization she founded with the purpose of helping the Latino Community in the Lebanon area. Lupita is also a business owner, with her husband Sergio, she is the owner of La Placita de Lebanon a Mexican Restaurant. I met Lupita while providing Diabetes Education to a group of uninsured individuals she had identified to provide information on how to manage diabetes. Lupita has been instrumental in having the most attended vaccination clinics among Latinos in the area. She knew the community trusted her and she open the restaurant to hold the vaccination clinics there. She is responsible for the distribution of over 600 doses of vaccines among Latinos in Lebanon. Lupita took upon herself in distributing masks in some of the biggest poultry processing plants in the area, when she learned employees there did not have any PPE. Lupita is an amazing remarkable person, making sure all children coming to Lebanon are registered in school and do not miss a beat. She provides clothing, food and all assistance she can find to the most vulnerable. Her work with the San Benito Abad Church confirms her commitment to the community. I know I am short in communicating all she does in this community. Please consider her for this recognition.”