Meet Sophia, a sweet, septuagenarian grandmother working in one of the kitchens in Comida antes de Tres Marías on the busy road between Cuernavaca and Mexico City. Around a dozen small restaurants are nestled side by side offering all kinds of traditional delights and workers, such as Sophia’s daughter-in-law, Julia, furiously wave colourful plates as a way of attracting customers.
But Sophia isn’t your average restaurant worker. She is the reason behind this cluster of restaurants. Alone at 21 with four children to feed after her husband left her for another women, she set up a small food stand at the side of the mountain road that runs north from Cuernavaca.
At first she had limited luck as cars were unable to stop on the busy highway. However, Sophia didn’t give up. She noticed two things: firstly, that customers were more likely to stop when the roads were quieter and secondly, that the hungriest travelers passed by first thing in the morning. With that in mind, she opened for business every day at 4:00 a.m.
As the years went by, more and more vendors began to join her until the early 1990s, when the police banned their roadside stalls for safety reasons. Undeterred, Sophia and the other vendors decided to work together to build a safe space for cars to stop, which is now a thriving spot with a carpark, shops and restaurants.
As our conversation moved into Sophia’s personal life, my colleagues signalled that it was time to leave. With a smile and a wink she added, “Come back another day and I’ll tell you the rest of the story.” To be continued — I hope.
Mexico News Daily