Daniel Malagon, 20, is a waiter at El Mariachi Mexican restaurant in Oxford. He was born in Los Angeles, but his parents are from Jalisco, Mexico. He moved to Mississippi 15 years ago, and lives in Batesville, but drives to Oxford every day for work.
“It is only a 15 minute drive,” said Malagon, who also worked at a restaurant in Batesville. “Compared to Batesville, there is much more diversity here in Oxford,” he said. “I started working eight months ago, and I love it. In total, we are 11 Latinos working here at El Mariachi, and we get along very well.”
When Malagon is not working, he enjoys playing basketball with friends and going out. “I love going out, even if it’s just a midnight stroll,” he said.
Malagon said he learned to speak English in high school in Los Angeles. He believes the Oxford restaurant represents true Latin culture. “Since the people who work here are mostly Latin, it helps a lot to portray a different vibe,” he said. “Also the music that we play around the restaurant is Spanish music, such as ‘bachata’ and ‘salsa,’ which helps create a positive atmosphere of Latin culture.”
Malagon said he has never been to Mexico to visit his family. “The economy is not good,” he said. “Also, Jalisco is having a lot of problems with drugs and violence, so it is not safe to be there.” However, he said he’d like to visit one day.
Enrique Cuellar, 24, is also a waiter/bartender at “El Mariachi.” He is from Central America, but was raised in California. He moved to the United States 13 years ago, but has only been living in Oxford for five months.
“Since I was very young when I moved to California, I did not learn much English,” he said. “However, since I have been living in Oxford, my English has improved dramatically.”
Before working at El Mariachi, Cuellar worked in a furniture store, but prefers working in a restaurant.
“This is my first time working in a restaurant, and I truly love it,” he said. “I learned how to be a bartender, which is something I always wanted to know, and I have made many friendships, not only with people I work with, but with the customers. It is a good way to make friends fast and easy in a small town like Oxford.”
Cuellar said he studied in Central America, but didn’t work. “Back home, people don’t get paid well, don’t earn much money, and there are not many job opportunities,” he said. “That is why I like being here. There are always job opportunities in and around Oxford, and the money is fair and good. Oxford is a small town, but it’s rich.”
Cuellar said El Mariachi has a lot of competition. Therefore, they try to make the business as original and real as they can. Brooke Taylor, a University of Mississippi freshman from Texas majoring in biology, goes to El Mariachi for dinner some nights. “The food is good, and it gives you an idea of Mexican culture and the atmosphere in which they serve the food.”
Taylor said the waiters are friendly and are a big part of the restaurant. She enjoys the music they play, and the churros.