“Hold onto your culture. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.”
We tried to create a restaurant that not only has a lot of multicultural influences but also a spiritual vibe. It could be some place that you can feel comfortable and you can feel good. We have a lot of different culture’s objects, like from Oaxaca and from Chiapas. It has a lot of spiritual background because Mexico City is religious. We have altars, and we are surrounded by skulls because we like the Day of the Dead. It’s very traditional here.
The thing I love most about my culture is the humility of the people in Mexico. They are a very proud people but also very humble. I like that. Mexican culture taught me always to be grateful for what we have. I also like the food. I love to cook, so I would love to teach people how to make salsa and guacamole. I want to preserve the Mexican traditions that existed before the Spanish came, traditions from the Aztec and Mayan cultures. I love that, especially the traditional beverage pulque.
My father, his wife and I wanted to start a restaurant, and so we finally did here in New Orleans. The restaurant is almost two years old now. My brother just moved here from Mexico City, so he’s helping us out with the restaurant. It’s now almost a complete family affair. The cuisine is from Oaxaca and we specialize in mescal and tequila.
This restaurant, I like to say it’s like a mixture of Mexico City, Barcelona, and New Orleans back in the day, like when I was growing up. I grew up in the French Quarter, and it was very influenced by the Spaniards and the French. I think the restaurant is a mix of all that.
I am Latino but I’m also Latin American, so that’s a whole different culture. There have been so many people like me long before, so the arts—the way they paint, the way they cook, the way they speak—all are part of being Chicano and Mexican American. We have a whole different culture, but also having an identity yourself as a Mexican or a Latino, you have to preserve your country’s culture.
When I was growing up, I didn’t know who I really was. My parents grew up in Mexico, so I only spoke Spanish. I didn’t learn how to speak English until I was in the third grade. It was interesting. My dad was against allowing me to call myself Chicano, like Mexican American. He didn’t accept that as my identity. When you live in California or Texas, there’s always a stereotype of what Chicanos look like. I didn’t look like that, and he didn’t want me to be like that, but that’s what I was. When I have kids, I want to show them that if you grow up in the States, you are American, but you’re also Latino. Hold onto your culture. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.