By MARINA WATERS
If you’ve driven down 11-E within the past few months, chances are you’ve seen a bright red food truck sitting at the edge of Ace Hardware’s parking lot. You might not know it while speeding past the mobile business, but upon walking up to this recent addition to Jonesborough’s lunch-time options, patrons have the options of numerous, authentic Mexican foods and an owner who is willing to share his story.
The food truck, El Lagunero, belongs to Eduardo and Claudia Rojas who are originally from Mexico. After changing his original career plans, Eduardo said he sought the United States for work and has been here for the last 32 years.
“When I was younger I did something very different. I started (to be) an engineer in Mexico,” Eduardo said. “I almost finished. I lacked one year to finish. So I wanted to try to come to the United States and that’s what I did. I said, ‘I’m just going to go and try to come back.’ I came here and started working. I see a lot of difference here than in my place. So I stayed and I’ve been here for a long while.”
Since then, Eduardo said, he has remodeled houses before his back injury and he’s also worked on the river and various farms. He even worked for a company that built cell phone towers and took him throughout the United States. But now he says he is ready for the kind of work involved with operating a food truck.
“I worked to build cell towers in other states. But now I’m tired of being everywhere around. I said, ‘Okay, that’s enough.’ I go for three weeks, one month, and come back and stay two or three days and go back again. I said ‘I’m tired’. So I started working on my own business,” Eduardo said. “It’s a lot of different. It’s almost 360 degrees around to work on a farm to work in a kitchen.”
Now, the Rojas are ready to share their native foods with the people of East Tennessee. The menu lists foods like tacos with corn tortillas, steak quesadillas, crunchy tostadas, tortas (a Mexican sandwich) and hot tamales (which are available on Thursdays and Sundays). Though it may not be hard to find a burrito or taco at other Mexican restaurants around town, Eduardo explained to the Herald & Tribune that he is offering a more authentic take on Mexican foods.
“The sauce, my wife makes it like we make it at the house,” Eduardo said. “It’s a lot of difference. We make hot tamales like they made it in Mexico. Everything is that way.”
Not only is the food a representation of The Rojas’ homeland, but their native city, Torreón (in the state of Coahuila in Mexico), is also honored through the name of their food truck, El Lagunero.
“A long time ago it just meant ‘a big lake’ that’s what they call ‘la laguna’ there in Mexico. And the people there call it ‘Lagunero’. It used to be like a lake. Now it’s too dry. It’s like a desert but they still call it Laguna Laguerno.
“(The truck) is something that people come and see and say, ‘Oh we saw the ‘Lagunero’ and we were thinking you were from Coahuila’ and I say, ‘Yes, you are right.’ Because it’s from all the people in Lagunero.”
For Eduardo and his wife, El Lagunero is about representing where they come from, which is a place they are able to visit for vacation thanks to the flexibility of running your own food truck.
But Eduardo said that for him, the business is about sharing real Mexican food all while doing the kind of work that he enjoys most.“I like to work. And I like the way I’m going to be working in here. It makes me happy when people come and say when they leave, ‘the food was great.’ I like to let people eat something we make in Mexico,” Eduardo said, “something that’s a different style. Because most of the restaurants here is a Tex Mex. It’s a little different. And here, it’s like it would taste in Mexico. People come and they say, ‘Oh this food tastes good!’ And they come back. It makes me feel good. I can do something different.”