Serving culture one plate at a time

Photo credit: Liesje Powers

One of the simplest ways to share one’s culture with others is through food. Waco is home to many small businesses that have flourished using traditional and authentic recipes, including Taqueria Zacatecas, also known as Taco Z.

Jose and Griselda Ramirez are the owners of Taqueria Zacatecas and are proud to have seen their restaurant grow and gain success over the 22 years since its opening.

“[The business] wasn’t something I really wanted. It just fell in my hands. My husband’s sister had three food trucks, but they were not doing well, so she sold them, and we bought one,” Griselda Ramirez said. “And that’s how we started. She told us more or less how to run things, and we just went for it.”

Griselda was born and raised in Zacatecas, Mexico. The city is the eighth largest state in Mexico and is largely an agricultural city with a population size of about 1.5 million, according to the Houston Institute for Culture. Griselda came to the United States after acquiring a visa. As Griselda and her husband opened their business, they decided to use recipes from Zacatecas and sell snacks from Mexico to keep an authentic taste.

“[The recipes] … we got from [Zacatecas], and we use them here,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said their business initially started with the food truck, but as their clientele and the demand for their food grew, larger space and more employees were needed.

“We first started in a truck, but it got hard carrying the ingredients to and from. It was a lot of work,” Ramirez said. “We only opened at nights and during weekends, but as more people started coming, we had to extend the hours.”

There are currently 17 employees staffed, Ramirez said. Despite the growth in staff, both Jose and Griselda continue to go in early in the morning to prepare and marinate the meat. Ramirez said the time and care that both she and her husband place on the quality of their food as well as the consistency of their flavors is what keeps customers combing back.

“No, we haven’t changed anything. I think it is because of our client base because there are some people who will come, and when they come back 5 years later they say [the food] still tastes the same. That’s why they come back,” Ramirez said. “My husband and I cook everything. Everyone helps in serving and cutting the meat and vegetables, but cooking and preparing the meat is done by us”

When asked about how the political climate has affected her business, Ramirez said that she is most worried about the increase in tariffs on imported goods from Mexico.

“I’m not sure if the changes to the border will change the price of goods coming from Mexico, which would cause our prices to go up and hurt our customers,” Ramirez said. “People probably come here because the food is so affordable.”

Houston junior Bassey Ubokudom said he eats at Taco Z once every two weeks. The low price and good tasting food is what Ubokudom said draws appeal to the restaurant.

“They are exposing people to new culture,” Ubokudom said. “It broadens our horizons. It helps us understand new cultures.”

Ramirez said she and her husband will continue to work hard to satisfy customers regardless of politics.

“You keep working hard for them,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez also expressed the importance of immigrants to the community and the country.

“I think that by working, one can achieve success. This is the land of opportunities when one puts forth effort. I, like many others, work hard, but those same people help you succeed because they keep coming back,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said she doesn’t know what the future will hold for her business, but she and her husband plan on working as long as they are able.

“We never thought [our business] would work out like this. Time is letting the business unfold,” Ramirez said. “We always keep working. You have to keep moving forward.”

*The quotations of Griselda Ramirez have been translated from Spanish to English by the reporter.

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