CLEVELAND — In Hispanic and Latino culture, food is the common thread that brings family and friends together.
While a minority in Cleveland, Latinos have a rich history sharing food and culture in Northeast Ohio, and what creates memories and legacies all started in their homes.
"[I really like] keeping it simple. Cilantro and onion, bringing all the flavors,” co-owner of Cilantro Taqueria Reynaldo Galindo, said.
Tacos, for some, are a flavorful, delicate meal, plus some.
"[Here,] have the music going,” Galindo said. “I feel like around here you don't really experience taquerias.”
In each bite of the tacos served at Cilantro Taqueria are generations of tradition and family, ingredients for which there are no substitutes.
"I remember her walking into Luchita’s and seeing her in the kitchen,” Galindo said.
Galindo is grandson to Maria de la Luz Munoz, known in Cleveland as Luchita Galindo.
"My mother grew up in Mexico,” Mari Galindo, one of Luchita’s daughters, said. “She was very humble, very shy, and, like 98 pounds.”
Originally running a leather shoe business in Mexico while raising eleven children, cooking wasn't a profession for Luchita back then, but it came naturally.
“We joked that she was like the godfather because she would be surrounded by all these people with her wonderful food,” Mari said.
Once settled in Cleveland, word of her talent spread.
“People would always tell her, 'you have to open a restaurant,'” Mari said. “That’s how Luchita's started. We ended up having 11 Luchita's. That was her baby after raising her 11 babies.”
After 25 years of sharing recipes and creating a community, Luchita retired. Only one "Luchita's Restaurant" remains, the original on West 117 St. on Cleveland’s westside.
Luchita’s influence remains in the newer generations, including Cilantro Taqueria.
"Did you always want to open up a restaurant,” 3News Reporter Marisa Saenz asked.
“No, I actually wanted to go to school. I was always big into cars,” Galindo responded.
From the auto industry, Galindo would pivot to what he knew growing up: the restaurant business.
A path also familiar to Mark Puente.
"I spent 15 years as a truck driver in Cleveland. I got hired at The Plain Dealer in 2005,” Puente said.
Puente's journalism career would be fulfilling, taking him all over the country, covering hard news.
"Now, we're here, making tacos,” Puente said.
"Avocado salsa, salsa verde, red salsa, cilantro, onions, lime, radishes. That's all that's one a typical [Los Angeles] street taco that I fell in love with when I was working at a newspaper,” Puente described.
Back in Cleveland, Puente is now building his small business: Puente's Tijuana Tacos.
‘It's a family affair, from start to finish: Close friends, our kids' friends,” Puente said.
Loved ones are involved in the process every step of the way, a mere reflection of how Puente has lived his life, and now shares his food with Northeast Ohio.
“We couldn't have done this or gotten the licenses or done the events without family",” Puente said.
MORE FROM REPORTER MARISA SAENZ:
Editor's note: The video in the player above is from a previously published, unrelated story.