An indigenous chef from the small Zapotec town of Magdalena Tlacotepec in Oaxaca had wanted to open her own restaurant until an earthquake halted those plans.
But Grecia Jiménez Osorio has found a new opportunity to cook regardless: she and a dozen others have been feeding hundreds of people who were victims of the September 7 earthquake that devastated a large part of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region.
“Cooking, just like music and glamour, has been my passion,” she said, explaining that her dream of setting up her own restaurant was sidetracked by the strongest earthquake in the region in a century.
Jiménez’s passion is now feeding needy residents of the neighboring towns of Juchitán, Xadani, Unión Hidalgo and Ixtaltepec in addition to those of Tlacotepec, and her operations has begun to be known as La Cocina de Grecia, or Grecia’s kitchen.
But Jiménez is also known for her humanitarian efforts through the non-governmental organization Binni Naayexche, a Zapotec term that translates as “Happy People.”
“This is something that we’re known for, it’s something that all muxes are, we’re happy, cheerful people. We always have a smile on our face,” said the 30-year-old chef, who is also a muxe (pronounced moo-shay), a third gender that is common — and accepted — among the Zapotec people.
Meals at Grecia’s Kitchen are ready every day at 1:00pm, when fried fish, vegetables, beans, beef, pozole or traditional coloradito mole are loaded on to a cargo bicycle and delivered hot to people living in shelters or in what was left of their homes.
Jiménez and her co-workers chose to deliver prepared meals rather than food supplies because many people lost their kitchens — “they don’t even have a glass left to drink water from.”
Under the motto “Help us give help,” the NGO earned fame on social media, which generated donations of food and money from throughout Mexico and abroad, including the United States and Germany.
The donations have been enough to feed those in Jiménez’s hometown, so she has steadily been expanding the coverage to the other towns nearby.
“As long as we keep smiling, food will continue to be prepared. Grecia’s Kitchen will not close as long as the smiles of the people are alive. Our smile is our happiness and the day we lose it will mean we no longer exist,” Jiménez said.