In Tijuana, Mexico, Fausta Rosalía is the owner of Lonchería Dulce. The food stand, which previously offered traditional Mexican cuisine, is now replaced with Haitian-style chicken and rice.
The food stand provides a comforting reprieve for Haitians waiting in Mexico while seeking asylum in the United States. An estimated 2,000 Haitians stay in Tijuana’s shelters, anticipating to be processed through to the other side of the border.
In the past year, Brazil has accepted the surge of Haitian immigrants to their country, as political and economic stability on the island worsened. With the current devastation of Hurricane Matthew on the island, in which the death toll rose to 1, 000 people, the migration of Haitian immigrants out of their homeland doesn’t show any signs of slowing anytime soon.
Rosalía initially tested out Haitian food at her restaurant after being approached by Haitian women who were homesick and stranded in a new country. “The women asked if I would allow them to cook some food for themselves in the kitchen. They don’t like the food from here.”
She was then propositioned by one of the Haitian women to cook their own food and sell it at the stand. Rosalía agreed, taking the women shopping for food supplies in order to cook traditional dishes from their island. The menu-switch was incredibly successful, as the restaurant is an offering of solidarity to Haitians who encounter legal roadblocks at every turn to try to escape into the United States.
Currently, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is reported to be widening efforts to deport Haitians.
“After three months of travel, we are fortunate enough to eat chicken with a taste of Haiti,” Charles, a Haitian immigrant who stayed in Mexico to work as a plumber, explained to Fusion. “A lot of people didn’t make it all the way here.”
The menu change has not only found appreciation among Haitian refugees, but among Mexicans as well, creating new cultural exchanges. “Now we get Mexicans and Americans as well. Just the other day, a woman came and asked me for food to take over to the other side,” shared Rosalía. “The main difference with Mexican style chicken is the condiments. They also prepare the rice differently. They say ‘habichuela’ but to me it’s ‘frijol’. They use a lot of beans in their recipes. Now I’m buying about 6 kilos of beans per day.”