Mexican Restaurants in Southwest Detroit Share Their Stories

(WXYZ) — For 18 years, Tacos El Caballo has sat near the corner of Springwells and Pershing in southwest Detroit.

It’s a community staple that cuts, arguably, the best authentic tacos in town.

But becoming such a valuable community has not come without challenges according to owner Jose Badajoz.

He says that 11 years ago on the same street corner, in his same food truck, a man tried to rob him.

“Hit me here. They shot him in the leg. They shot his brother. They tried to come in and steal the money they had earned that night. Once they shot him, his brother was down. It was like he was covering himself up and he died there,” Badajoz said.

His brother’s killer was never caught. Despite the tragedy, closing was not an option.

So he stays there, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.

Perseverance is also what led the Vargas family to open La Jalisciense.

The family was forced to close their store in Mexico City due to threats of intimidation and violence. So they brought the business plans to Detroit.

“We didn’t know what to expect, so we’re just going blind,” Leslie Vargas said.

She said she cried every day for a year when her family moved from Mexico City to Michigan.

“I came here and I didn’t know English. I think I knew the water and the bathroom, that’s all,” she recalls.

But when her father bought La Jalisciense and started selling traditional Mexican snacks, staples and cuisines, she started to feel good.

“It didn’t make us feel so far from home, even though we’re so far away,” she said.

Now her hope is to create that same sense of belonging in others.

“Because it does it for me, so I know it does it for others.”

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