My grandfather, Norberto came from a big family, 12 siblings to be exact. They all shared one dream: make their parents proud.
Norberto was born in Guanajuato, Mexico. His parents moved to the city of Torreón in search of a better life. My great grandfather started a produce business selling fresh fruits and vegetables. One of my grandfather's oldest brothers, Javier decided to bring the same success to Mexico City. The business took off, instantly.
Shortly after marrying my grandmother, Guadalupe, they raised four kids: three boys and one girl. At the Torreón shop, work was steady, and Norberto needed more money to support a big family. My grandparents traveled to the greatest city in all of Mexico, el Distrito Federal or as it’s officially known today, la Ciudad de México or Mexico City.
Norberto immediately began working for his brother Javier sending produce trucks all over Mexico. Norberto worked seven days a week while Guadalupe was a stay-at-home mom raising four kids and upkeeping the apartment. As they settled and adjusted to the city, an earthquake of 7.3 happened.
Guadalupe was concerned for the well-being of their youngest child, Martha. Guadalupe wanted to move to Ciudad Juárez because her sister lived there. Norberto asked Javier for advice about making the move to the border town of Juárez. Javier advised my grandfather it would be a wise business move to go to Juárez as it's the gateway to the United States.
Norberto and Guadalupe moved yet again to the northern part of Mexico settling in Juárez. Norberto started an orange and apple produce shop. Norberto oversaw the trailers importing and exporting the fruits, Guadalupe managed the books while their three oldest sons did the heavy lifting.
Loads after loads of fresh red apples were coming in from Washington state and being delivered to Mexico City. Boxes of juicy oranges were being exported to the U.S.; business was booming.
Norberto made enough money to pay for their first home in cash. Family trips were becoming more frequent: exotic escapes to Acapulco and Southern California because that's where the mouse house was. Their third oldest son wanted to study abroad in Paris, "you got it!" said Norberto. The second son wanted the latest car model, "you got it!" repeated Norberto. Norberto wanted the best for his sons, no exceptions.
Norberto was too focused on his sons and their families that he would neglect his youngest daughter, Martha. Martha would never forget what was said to her over dinner. Norberto told every single one of his sons, "I'm buying all my boys their very first house so you can make your wives happy." Martha asked, "What about my house? I want a house too daddy." and Norberto told her, “When you get married, your husband can buy you a house." Martha was puzzled and a bit upset because her dad came across as a machismo.
Mexico experienced its first peso devaluation in 1976, the currency fell 40%. My grandfather couldn’t pay the imports from Washington. The Mexican peso wasn't worth much anymore. People couldn't afford to pay for anything. Norberto would ask for loans from other businessmen to get by and yet that wasn't enough.
Eventually, my grandfather decided to shut down the produce shop and open a much smaller business. He owed money to a handful of loaners; he was desperate. The newly opened mini market wasn't making enough sales to pay off the loans. Norberto began selling burritos from the mini market, sales increased but it was nowhere near the sales from the produce shop.
From the burrito business, Alberto, Norberto's second oldest son had an idea to help the family survive. He wanted to buy a food truck and sell Mexican-style shrimp cocktails, cócteles de camaron. Alberto was Norberto's favorite son, whatever Alberto desired was given to him.
Norberto and his family got ready for a road trip to sunny Southern California. Their mission was to bring back a used food truck and sell fresh shrimp cocktails in El Paso, Texas.
Stay tuned as we get closer to how Alberto started the family "curse" of restauranteurs including myself.