Editor’s Note: This interview with Orestes Montero was conducted by Tulane student, Holden Cooper as a part of the Southern Food & Beverage Museum’s New Orleans con Sabor Latino exhibit. This exhibit was the result of a joint effort by Tulane University, SoFaB, and community partners.
In Dr. Sarah Fouts’s interdisciplinary seminar, Food, Migration, & Culture, Tulane students worked with Latino members of the New Orleans food industry to create a series of oral histories exploring the role of Latin culture in New Orleans’s restaurant scene. With stories ranging from famous restauranteurs to line cooks, New Orleans con Sabor Latino demonstrates the diversity of experience within this community, as well as their vital contributions to the Big Easy.
|Read Oral History Full Text Below|
Sure, you love Casa Borrega, known for their Mexican food in Central City, but have you tried their food truck, La Cubana? In the above clip, Orestes Montero explains the origins of their mobile offshoot, inspired by historic connections between Mexico and Havana.
Montero split his youth between Mexico City and New Orleans. Now, after his many years with the business, he is the general manager at Casa Borrega and runs La Cubana food truck.
Orestes Montero, Oral History Full Text
“My name is Orestes Montero, and I been working here for three years. I was born in Mexico City and grew up in the French Quarter, and then went back to Mexico, and I came back three years ago.
At Casa Borrega, we believe in inclusiveness, so we, we support all the Latin culture, not only Mexican culture. La Havana was a project that was created as a part of the strong bond between Cubans and Mexicans. In the 1900s there were many cultural manifestations between Mexico and Cuba, especially in the dance and in the music. It was like the golden age of Mexican films during that time, black and white films, and a lot of these films were Mexican actors but with Cuban musicians.
We tried to represent this, this connection, by our food. We believe that the food is something essential and sacred for all cultures, and it’s important that this, this connection is represented for something else than music and dance.
We needed to create something with Cuban food as well, so we believed it was a good option to, to develop like, a food truck, called La Havana, to, to link the food between Cuba and Mexico. Because if we introduce the Cuban food here, it would be kind of difficult for the customers to understand the concept of Mexican restaurant but you have Cuban food as well, so it was good like, to have this food truck only for Cuban food, but it’s part of Casa Borrega.”
Special thanks to the Tulane University Stone Center for Latin American Studies, the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South, and the Tulane University Center for Public Service for their assistance and support of this project.