On a Saturday afternoon in East Austin, I met Danza Azteca Guadalupana performing at Edward Rendon Sr. Park at Festival Beach. The group is made up of kids and young adults dressed in Aztec inspired costumes. They group performed in front of a Mexican American audience of approximately 200 people as part of a community festival benefiting Cristo Rey Catholic Church.
My friend Ben Briones who graduated from UT Austin recommended me to visit Leal’s Tire Shop located on East Cesar Chavez Street. I was excited to find murals featuring themes from what appears to be Mexico’s pre-Columbian heritage.
While visiting the shop, I met Armando Lara who is originally from Veracruz, Mexico. He works at the shop fixing flats and doing other maintenance work.
I asked for the name of the artist who painted the walls but people at the shop couldn’t recall his name.
Luis Rodriguez, who is originally from the Coahuila-Texas border, plays the accordion at parties and special events with another band member not pictured here. This image was taken near Cristo Rey Catholic Church in East Austin, Texas on a Saturday noon. I noticed two quinceañera ceremonies taking place at the church the day I visited.
There’s a mural on the premises of Long Motors car dealership in Austin, Texas dedicated to the legacy of Cesar Chavez. The topics alluded in the mural include social justice, farm labor, and economic opportunity. The famous motto “si se puede” is bold and clear to motorists traveling east on Cesar Chavez Street. It sends the message that hard working, Mexican American residents can afford a car.
I interviewed sales manager Raul Martinez with Long Motors and he told me that the mural is attractive to many people. He has been working at Long Motors since 2005, which coincides with the year the mural was painted. Since then, he has watched people take photos and admire the painting.
Raul is from Leon, Guanajuato Mexico. His story is about hard work and dedication. Before being sales manager at Long Motors he worked at a restaurant serving food. Because of his customer service skills at the restaurant he was invited to sell cars by the owner of Long Motors. After three weeks at the job he was promoted to manager and has now (at the time of this writing) 8 years on the job. “Si se puede” he says “picando piedra (chipping rock)”
Jumpolin is a business that sells piñatas and rents moonwalks in Austin, Texas. I met the owner Monica Contraras, her daughter Emilia Lajarazu on a busy Saturday morning and gladly volunteered to be photographed.
Inside, I found a party invitation featuring the Mexican soccer team nicknamed Chivas, piñata sticks, Mexican flags, and many other Mexican themed party items. The store is located on Cesar Chavez St in East Austin, which is home to many Mexican-American businesses.
Mary Louise Cantu is a native of Edinburg, Texas. Like many other South Texans, she has family ties to Mexico. She remembers traveling as a teenager along with her mother to Reynosa to visit her grandmother who lives there. Because Mary and her mother didn’t have a vehicle, they would rely on rides and buses to get from place to place.
The trip to Reynosa is important to Mary because it connects her with her Mexican heritage. With this photo shoot, I wanted to capture memories of Mary’s experience waiting for a bus to go to Reynosa. So, we went to the same HEB store where she and her mother would board the bus. At this store, there is a bus stop that offers frequent departures to Reynosa. It’s located in south McAllen about ten miles from the border.
Mary and her mother would buy items like milk, bread, and corn tortillas at the HEB store, walk to the bus stop on 10th street and then board the bus. In Reynosa, they would be dropped off at a Seven Eleven convenience store and take a pesera (another bus) to her grandma’s house.
I asked her what she thought about the trip being of an international nature and she replied that as a kid, she never thought about it such terms. “Going to Reynosa was just something we did every other weekend and it wasn’t that big of a deal to me.” she said.
Cooking is an art says Maria Adela Lazcano owner of El Zarandeado Mexican Food Sinaloa Style located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It took her 13 years to create the recipes for El Zarandeado Restaurant. Maria is originally from the state of Sinaloa, Mexico. Her recipes are inspired by the culinary traditions of Sinaloa, Nayarit and Sonora.
For example, el zarandeado is a traditional dish from Sinaloa that features the a kind of fish called Pargo. The fish is sliced in lengthwise and marinated before being baked in the oven. The result is a fish with a crunchy texture that is cooked evenly. The restaurant was named after this traditional dish that literally means “the shaked one.”
Maria is grateful to be running a family restaurant with the help of her daughters and her son. El Zarandeado has two locations in Albuquerque and her family collaborates in the operation of both. Family is very important to Maria. She told me that one of her major goals was to have her kids work alongside with her.
Although Maria is happy to live and work in the City of Albuquerque, she feels culturally connected with Mexico and wishes to open a restaurant in her home state of Sinaloa in the future. “My heart is in Mexico” she tells me “I want, god willing, I want to end up with a restaurant in Mexico.”
I had the great honor of photographing Jose Aldana, the owner of Aldana’s Restaurant in Santa Fe, New Mexico on May 31, 2014. The restaurant has a family, mom and pop atmosphere and serves Mexican and New Mexican food. The most popular plate comes with a tamal, an enchilada and a sopapilla (fried pastry) covered with red or green chile sauce. The restaurant appeals to Mexicans, Mexican Americans and New Mexicans alike.
Jose is originally from a little town called Jilotepec located in Estado de Mexico, which is a state in central Mexico. As a young man he worked in the fields in Mexico. When he moved to the United States, he started washing dishes, sweeping floors and later began to prepare food. His experience in the restaurant industry let him to start Aldana’s Restaurant with the help of friends and family.
Mr. Aldana has come a long way. He said that he remembers his life in Mexico merely as his “infancia” (childhood). He has spent roughly 22 years in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His life has been mainly shaped by living and working in United States.
Started in 2009, El Tapatío is a lonchera or “food stand” housed in a truck based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It’s a small, friendly place with a family atmosphere that serves lunch and breakfast. The founders are Miguel A. Torres who is originally from Aguascalientes and his wife Evelia Segura who is from Guadalajara, Jalisco. Both states are located in central Mexico.
El Tapatío serves tacos, tortas, burritos, campechanas, sincronizadas, enchiladas, menudo and more traditional Mexican snack foods or antojitos. The menudo plate is apparently a big hit at El Tapatío. The Saturday I visited the food stand, there were plenty of customers requesting it. Furthermore, Miguel has a humble sign that he places on the sidewalk to advertise menudo. The sign reads “hoy tenemos rico menudo” in hand written, capital letters.
I met Theresa Gonzales at La Plazita Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The organization works with the most marginalized and vulnerable population of the South Valley, which is a neighborhood just south of Albuquerque. Theresa experienced an unfavorable upbringing due to poverty and addiction problems in her family. She also faced education barriers and spent time in the streets. She refers to that experience as “street knowledge”. Despite the odds, she is an avid learner and is constantly looking to improve not only her life but also the community of the South Valley, New Mexico.
The South Valley is also referred to as the Town of Atrisco or the Atrisco Land Grant by people in the area. Theresa is a land grant heir of 2 historic land grants – the Town of Atrisco and Cañón de Carnué.