The Latino family that feeds the homeless in the Bronx
Community is important, especially amid a pandemic. The Saavedras have opened their restaurant to the neighborhood so no one is left without a hot meal.
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Hundreds of hungry people from the South Bronx, one of the most Hispanic neighborhoods in New York that has suffered the ravages of COVID-19, pass through La Morada every day, the humble restaurant of a Mexican family that saw most of its aid denied at the start of the pandemic because of their migrant status.
In the spring of this year, the Saavedra's fell ill with coronavirus and had to close their restaurant for an entire month. With no other support than that provided by DACA, the family of four that came to the United States in 1992 across the Sonoran desert, had a difficult time until a friend started an internet fundraiser and they were able to open their doors again.
Because they had a month's worth of food accumulated, the owners of La Morada decided there were too many hungry people in the Bronx to throw it away and started a community food program. Quickly, long queues of struggling neighbors formed in front of the restaurant and it served 200 soups in less than an hour.
"We realized that the need was enormous. The next day, without thinking, we cooked twice as much," Natalia Mendez, the Saavedra's mother, who at 50 years old, juggles filling the pantry and serving the dishes, told the AP.
Anything goes to fill the need — a few tortillas, some beans or chicken salad collected from local markets and from donations from friends and customers, often presented in the form of packaged rice or vegetables.
At La Morada, which today serves about 650 meals a day, there is a sign on the door that reads "No deportations." The Saavedra's are undocumented, but have been making their way in the country for years and have become activists within their community, sharing what little they have with migrants and Americans alike.
"We always say that activism is like our secret seasoning, so I think it was very natural for us to serve our community with what we have," said Yajaira Saavedra, 32, co-owner of the restaurant with her parents. "It's also something that brings us back to our indigenous roots, when we all participated in the meals, contributing a few ingredients, and cooking a big pot together."
The food that Natalia and her husband cook is also distributed to community refrigerators through volunteers that are constantly going in and out of La Morada carrying boxes to soup kitchens, or chopping onions and other ingredients to serve the dishes.
"It's about the community contributing and friends and allies saying 'we're going to do this, we're going to fight together and survive,'" said the Saavedras, who have run the restaurant since 2009 and been contributing in many ways to the Bronx for years, even setting up a book exchange.
When experts warn that the country is experiencing a "humanitarian disaster" and there have already been more than 10.6 million cases of COVID-19 (according to data from November 12) and 243,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, stories like that of this Latino family show the importance of unity and generosity among people and gives hope to the United States after years of fierce individualism under the cover of power.