With Cinco de Mayo right around the corner, we wanted to highlight two friends and supporters of our work at Catholic Charities, Gabriela & Salvador Tellez; both are Mexican nationals, Ithacan immigrants, and leaders in Ithaca’s Latino community. This weekend, the Tellezes are going to be front and center with sharing their customs, food and culture at local events celebrating Cinco de Mayo. Gabriela will be acting as host, as well as performing at this Festival & Block Party (held on Sunday, May 3, at GIAC in downtown Ithaca.) The couple’s traditional Mexican cooking will also be available during the event.
The Tellezes and their children moved to upstate New York over a decade ago and have been in Ithaca for 4 years. Since moving to our community they have found various ways to tap into their love of cooking, social activism and performance arts while resettling their family here. Like many others in the Ithaca community, we have listened to Gabriela sing, have been guests on their radio show, Alance Latino, and have enjoyed their food during festivals on the Commons. And in order to support them as local immigrant entrepreneurs, we have used them for catering (I can still remember the guacamole).
Both of the Tellezes love to cook. Their passion for cooking home-style, traditional Mexican food is something that seems to have been ingrained in them at an early age; both of them learned how to cook watching and learning from their mothers. Salvador, who grew up in northwestern Mexico near the Pacific coast, eventually began to specialize in cooking seafood appetizers and dishes. He says he is best known for his ceviche, pescado sarandeado, and coctel de camarones. Gabriela, originally from Ciudad Juarez, is known for her traditional Mexican dishes – especially carne asada and sopes y salsas. They are both proud of the fact that whenever their extended family has one of their large reunions, everyone requests for them to do the cooking.
While living in New York, the Tellezes eventually came across some friends/acquaintances who after tasting their cooking, wanted to hire them to provide food for their meetings and small events at Cornell. This eventually led to them finding their niche in Ithaca as immigrant entrepreneurs where they could earn a living by doing something they both loved – cooking traditional Mexican foods. They launched a small business and took on catering larger functions in the community (including many conferences at Cornell). They also rented space in Center Ithaca where they opened a small restaurant and had access to an industrial sized kitchen that met their restaurant and catering needs. Although the restaurant side of the business eventually closed, Tellez Catering is alive and well – (make sure you “like” them on Facebook).
About two years ago, they decided to add social activism to something else they wanted to take on and became co-founders of the first Spanish radio show in the area. Alcance Latino, which airs on WRFI, 88.1, Sunday evenings from 7-9:00 pm, became the venue where both of them could take turns hosting a show where a variety of topics could be discussed, ranging from tips for farmworkers about knowing their rights and how to stay safe to discussions surrounding immigration reform or the importance for Latino parents to teach their children how to keep their cultural traditions alive.
Ithaca is fortunate to have such a gifted couple who are so willing to share their culture, their advice, their food, and heritage in so many ways. So once again, Cinco de Mayo is right around the corner. We see it as a great opportunity to meet the Tellezes in person, experience a taste of their culture, and provide support for an event that highlights the immigrants living in our community.