How Mexicans celebrate their Independence Day in New Zealand?
In conversation with founders and directors Ana Cecilia Mijangos Lara and Luis Cabrera Ortiz of restaurant Besos Latinos. Here they talk about Mexico, their business and how Mexicans celebrate their Independence Day.
Since when are you in New Zealand? And why you decided to leave Mexico?
Everything started when my now husband Chef Luis Cabrera whom I met in Mexico City came back from Sydney. After a year in Mexico he started to have the idea to move overseas again.
He left Mexico when he was 17 years old to study the University in Perugia Italy. After that he travel and worked around the globe. He decided to spend a year in Mexico before leaving again to Australia. We met that year and he convince me to take the step. By this time, I was working as a human resources manager in Santander Bank and I wasn’t planning to leave my job as I was happy and complete as a professional. What made me take this adventure, was the idea of not doing this before starting a family and regretting it later. I took the plunge and in January 2007, my adventure in New Zealand started on a working holiday visa.
How are you going to celebrate Mexico's Independence Day?
As part of the Mexican Community in Auckland, we always gather to celebrate important dates. Because we know how important is for Latinos to feel a little bit close to home, even if only for a night, as part of a Latin Fiesta, Mariachi Night, Tango or Salsa Night.
Every year we dedicate time and investment to organize a good Mexican Fiesta with Live Mariachi Band and traditional food to celebrate Mexican Independence Day. We use this fiesta to gather, celebrate our country, our people and families.
Also to open the door to the real Mexico and invite other cultures to join the fiesta. This year our Mariachi Night will be on September 15, and you can check all the details on our Facebook page.
What is the biggest misconception people have about Mexican food in New Zealand?
The biggest misconception is not just in New Zealand. Unfortunately it is all around the world. Here in NZ people are more into Tex-Mex (Burritos, Nachos, Chilli con Carne ) than the real Mexican Food. But I must say that since we opened the Besos Latinos Restaurant in 2010, things have changed a little. At least some people now can see the difference and appreciate the effort we do to make Mexican Food with local ingredients. For example, Mexican Food is soft tacos, no Hard Taco. Mexican Food are Chilaquiles no Nachos. Mexican Food is Alambre, no Chilli con Carne. But we do understand that being so far from Mexico, people here follow the American version of Mexican food. That’s why are here to defend our cuisine and to open a gourmet door not just to Mexico, but also to share recipes from places such as Argentina, Venezuela, Peru, Colombia, Brazil and Chile.
What do you want to teach people about Mexican food?
Tex-Mex is a fusion of Mexican and American cuisine, largely as a result of Tejano culture (Texans of Mexican heritage). It first came into existence when settlers began moving into what is now Texas and encountered Mexican culture. As more Americans settled in the area, Mexican food became more and more popular, and they began adding their own twists (like using ground beef)
Mexican cuisine, on the other hand, has been around for thousands of years, beginning with indigenous communities (such as the Mayans and other Mesoamerican groups) bringing their cooking methods together. There are also Spanish, African, and even Asian influences in Mexican cuisine due to colonization.
What is the translation in English of “Besos Latinos” and why you choose that name?
Besos Latinos is the first Gourmet Latin American restaurant in New Zealand. That means we do Latin American food respecting the techniques with professional cookers and Chefs. Besos Latinos means Latin American Kisses. Latinos use the word Kisses to say Bye! See you! Kisses to the Family!
It is a very romantic word, and describe very well the experience to eat and receive a culinary kiss. I wanted to kiss everybody with our dishes. That’s why Besos Latinos.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in the restaurant business?
My partner is a Chef and I am Business Girl with a HR career. It was meant to be. I have the personality to be around people, host them, organize fiestas, take care of the image, social media, staff etc. and Luis is a crack on what he does not just in the execution of his position as a Chef. He also knows a lot of inventory, taxes, management of food, public relationships and more. We just combine very well.
What's your secret to keeping customers coming in? What have been some of your most successful promotions?
Our secret is to be present and real. People appreciate a business that is well cared for, where you can see the owners connected with the team, you can feel how and where the restaurant soul is. Our Staff is our family. We want to create a good, safe and fun environment for them, respecting them and helping them to enjoy their experiences here in New Zealand. That’s our secret.
What community projects are you working on now?
Since we started Besos Latinos Restaurante, we project our business to be as sustainable as possible. I am an animal lover and since the beginning I ensure that our suppliers of meat, chicken and pork were respectful with all the process that involve selling this meat. We have grass feed and free range on our menu. I also have plenty of vegetarian options to balance our culinary offer.
Additional to this, I started the NPH Latin American Market with partner and director of NPH New Zealand Loren O Sullivan. This is an organization that help nine countries in Latin America where abandoned, neglected and poor children are taken care of, feeding them and educating them until they go in universities.
Our next market is on September 15, at the Mount Eden Memorial Hall, between 3 to 7pm.
What is the commitment of Besos Latinos with the Latin culture in New Zealand?
We have become intentionally almost like an embassy for Latinos in New Zealand. We offer events related to entire Latino culture, and not just Mexican. We have organized things with the Brazilian, Colombian, Argentinian, Peruvian and Mexican communities for years now. We have been visited by national and international television like TV3, Televisa from Mexico, La Latina from Peru, Telemundo and Univision from Miami, ESPN EUA , food bloggers and more.
Also, we have hired over 300 Latin Americans since 2010. Some of them getting residencies and citizenships though their job in Besos Latinos. We definitely believe that Besos Latinos have been good for our community and for New Zealanders.
We want to change the vision and the stereotypes that Kiwis have of Latin Americans. We are very well educated people, respectful, hard workers, honest and fun! What else you can ask for!
Readers can find Besos Latinos at M16-41 Elliott St, Auckland CBD, NZ (Inside the Elliott Stables)
The Mexican War of Independence (Spanish: Guerra de Independencia de México) was an armed conflict, and the culmination of a political and social process which ended the rule of Spain in 1821 in the territory of New Spain. The war had its antecedent in Napoleon's French invasion of Spain in 1808; it extended from the Cry of Dolores by Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla on September 16, 1810, to the entrance of the Army of the Three Guarantees led by Agustín de Iturbide to Mexico City on September 27, 1821. September 16 is celebrated as Mexican Independence Day. (source Wikipedia)