He has come from Mexico, raised a family and for the last year, has run a restaurant in Brixton. He believes that the arrival of more Mexican immigrants to London will strengthen their community.
It is his skin colour, his moustache and his accent in particular, that give him away. Carlos Figueroa is a Mexican man, who has swapped the beaches and hot temperatures of his home country for cold and rainy London, and this is all down to love.
Along with his wife, he runs an authentic Mexican restaurant in the heart of Brixton, which has had a number of very good reviews.
He has lived in this area for a decade, and now feels like a true citizen of this great city.
Why did you leave Mexico for England?
Why did you choose this part of the city to open your business?
We lived in Brixton for 9 years, and we have seen how the area has been changing gradually. We realised that in South-East London there was not a lot of variety of restaurants and this is what motivated us.
Our aim is to provide authentic food from Mexico, eliminating the concept of Tex-Mex, burritos, tortillas – this is not true Mexican food. The first burrito I ate was actually here in London. Corn is the main ingredient at the heart of Mexican cuisine, and not wheat flour as other restaurants imply. We offer more traditional recipes, typical breakfasts, tacos etc.
Is the distance a problem in order to achieve a traditional kitchen?
At present, it is not a problem. But if you asked me five years ago, the answer would have been different. We could not offer a menu like we can these days, back then. There are now big companies that import products from Mexico, which did not exist before. I think Mexican cuisine is growing at a very fast pace. I think that we will be the second, behind China.
We are growing day by day, but out of the Latino communities we have the least presence in London. The arrival of more Mexicans is a good thing. The more we have a presence, the more influence we will have. Then the more restaurants we will have, and our dishes will be more successful.
From my point of view, we are not a united community. Some say this isn’t true, but this is just how I see it. I am only in touch with two Mexicans here. There are groups of Mexicans, but they always stay in their flats. We are not like the Colombians, Bolivians and Peruvians who all have their meeting places. Nor do we get any support to strengthen our institutions. However, I’m sure the situation will change for the better.
I don’t believe it’s hard to open a business in England. There is bureaucracy, like in any other country. We had to make an initial investment, and that is where the risk comes into play. The thing that’s even more complicated is maintaining the business.
How do the English react towards immigrants?
They are very friendly, and above all, they are crazy for learning about other cuisines. They are a society that is always welcoming new citizens from different cultures. Also, the time during the economic crisis has been good to us. Why? With the economic crisis, people are not able to travel. This problem is solved by trying other cuisines and eating out, and then they come here to eat good food, and to enjoy a good experience of a foreign country.
Do you think that one day you will want to go back to Mexico?
My parents say it is a great shame, but there is nothing to make me want to go back, only my family and friends. Here I am finding places where I feel like I am at home, as if this is my home town.
(Translated by Amanda Flanaghan – Email: email@example.com)