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  • Interview with Edmundo Rosas Nava / Una Entrevista con Edmundo Rosas Nava
  • Charles H. Rowell and Marcus Jones
  • Interview with Edmundo Rosas Nava
  • Charles H. Rowell and Marcus Jones

This interview took place on February 19, 2007, in Yanga, Veracruz, Mexico.

ROWELL: When did you begin this restaurant, called Yambo?

NAVA: Yambo has been open for thirteen years. It opened on November 20, 1993, and I started it because I had become unemployed. I was working at a bank, and the department in which I worked was eliminated. So necessity prompted me to start this business. I befriended someone from the National Valley of Oaxaca region, from a place called San Jose Chitepleq. That area is used to grow tobacco and pepper. That's why they brought people from Oaxaca: they are the ones who know how to prepare Cuban-style food, beginning with chicken. And that's how my curiosity about starting this type of restaurant was born, in this area where this type of food was unknown. We were fortunate that people liked it, the whole region liked it, and we have been successful. We've had a success that we didn't expect because our growth, which has been rooted in hard work, is significant.

JONES: And where are you from originally?

NAVA: I'm originally from Mata Clara: land of the black people. Lately, because it's drawn a lot of attention and many people are interested in Yanga, we have been discovering that the name has something to do with the people's African roots. The restaurant's name, this thing about Yambo, came about as a joke. It wasn't deliberate. Because I'm from Mata Clara, people would tell me that I wouldn't say "Ya me voy" (I'm leaving), I would shorten it to "Yambo." And that's where the name came from. But lately we have spoken with people from Africa, and the meaning of "yambo" is "welcome" or something like that, a sort of greeting.

JONES: Where does the word "yambo" come from?

NAVA: It's Senegalese.

ROWELL: How do you know that it is Senegalese? [End Page 96]

NAVA: Because African people have come here. They know about all of this, about their roots. Some of them tell me one thing: that it's a greeting, like saying "Hello." Others from Senegal tell me it's "Welcome."

ROWELL: You live in Mata Clara, but this busy restaurant is in Yanga. Why did you decide to build your restaurant in this location?

NAVA: The location was pure luck. It wasn't predetermined that we would have it here or there. What happened was that the owner of the place was amicable to giving us the chance to start here. From there, the business had to keep growing to where we are now.

JONES: And how did you learn to cook this type of food?

NAVA: I was telling you earlier that the people who taught me to make these dishes are originally from somewhere in Cuba. They arrived in Oaxaca in 1890, when the area was tobacco-growing. Because they arrived from Cuba, they would say, "Let's roast a pork Cuban-style," and that's where the "Cuban style" name comes from. But I've looked into it, and this style of cooking was done in Cuba, because people from Africa also arrived in Cuba. And they would do this because, in Africa, if they caught an animal in the wilderness, they would roast it like this.

ROWELL: Did your family know how to make this food?

NAVA: Oh, no. I know that the people who prepared pork Cuban-style arrived in that area around that time. But from my family, no one knew how to make this. I was the one who brought this food to this area, but without knowing how to make it.

JONES: Is your family of African descent?

NAVA: Yes.

JONES: And do you know from what part of Africa they came?

NAVA: That you can find out from the man we're going to go see in Mata Clara. His name is Florentino and he knows why there are distinct races, from different...


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