In disbelief last week, I read the story in the morning daily about the closing of El Cid and Elvira’s, restaurants in Nogales, Sonora, I went to as a child and during college excursions across the border. I was always fond of both, but it was Elvira’s that I loved because of what it always meant to my family.
And as I drove my mom home a few nights ago after a movie, we talked about these restaurants closing, and once again, I got to hear the stories on why my family had this connection with Elvira’s. I know that when I went with my mom as a kid, I always got the same plate, and when I went as an adult, I always got the same plate--lengua--tongue, cooked with tomatoes. It was delish.
My mom recalled going over the border for different reasons than my childhood trips for tourista stuff (like marionettes, dolls and games; or going over with my aunt and uncle so he could get his giant cans of jalapeños).
When my mom was a kid growing up in Tucson, she went over with her parents during the tail end of the Depression and during World War II. Some food stuffs were cheaper in Nogales, and you didn’t have to worry about food rations (yes, in those days, people had to sacrifice during war time--not like today when the only people who sacrifice are those serving in the war and their families).
So, they drove down, always buying sugar, and they always, always stopped for lunch at Elvira’s. Back then, my mom said, she remembered there was a rabbit that walked around the restaurant floor and people would toss it lettuce and other veggies.
“People wouldn’t tolerate that kind of thing now days,” she said.
But she remembered thinking it was pretty cool, and back then everyone at the table got the same plate--tongue. I remember taking my husband’s cousin and her partner to Nogales when we traveled with them from Seattle to Tucson about 10 years ago. We went to Elvira’s and she ordered fajitas or something similar. My mother and I glanced at each other, working hard to hide our horror at the thought of ordering anything else.
I know not many people are traveling to Nogales since the increase in violence. But I worry for it. Things change. Life never stays the same. It’s our one guarantee, and that can be a blessing. Elvira’s is gone,though, and since I’ve been back home in Tucson I haven’t had a chance to go over to the other side--my mom and I kept talking about it, making a plan, talking about lunch at Elvira's. But we didn’t, and now we are full of regret for a loved but distant relative, that we never got a chance to say goodbye.