Written by Megan Juba
Azael Casillas first came to Salida from Guatelajara, Mexico; alone, at age 18. Although his mom had put him in English classes as a child, he wanted to learn more. His goal in coming to Salida was to speak better English. He attended Salida High School for about 5 months but explains, “I had to decide if I want to make money and live. Because I have to pay rent and everything by myself or if I want to be in high school.” He made the decision to leave, get some work experience and to go to college in Mexico for a Business Management degree and a professional coaching certificate. After some time, he eventually made his way back to this community. He shakes his head and admits, “[In Mexico] there is lots of criminals, cartels, drugs. I can make more money here as a server than with a professional career back in Mexico. You have a better quality life here.” Even though he recognizes that there are positives and negatives to any place, he sees great opportunity in Salida, including being an entrepreneur.
Azael is owner and operator of a business, Mexico Tradicional which is a restaurant selling what the name indicates–authentic, traditional Mexican food located on Highway 50 in Salida. “My mom and grandma was really good cooks. I started when I was really young. I was 10 or 11 years old and helping out and that’s where I discovered I like to cook and serve food.” His menu includes foods like street tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas and Mexican drinks like Jarritos. Each customer is greeted with steady seriousness–he knows he’s serving up something good.
There is a determination in his eyes when Azael talks about his family. He is a family guy to his core. Every decision and all his motivation comes from a deep commitment to do the best for his wife and three young kids (1 year old twins and a 6 year old). “Our dreams are to get our own house with a piece of land so my kids can play out there and to save money for my son’s future and sometimes to take vacations.” He worries that they might not be able to stay because there is a lot of competition for his restaurant and it has been difficult doing a food truck during the winters. Plus, it’s expensive here. Hoping to stay, he says, “I just really like it here. It’s a relaxed town. You can find anything that you needs here and it’s a really nice place to raise your kids.”