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Campus Profile -- Antonio Saravia

Jose’s Mexican Restaurant food truck employee discusses life, work, and politics

By Brian Loux

associate features editor

Craving a taco in your lunch break between classes? Jose’s Mexican Restaurant, one of the four food trucks outside Building 68, has been serving lunches to hungry locals for almost two years.

Captaining the booth is Antonio Saravia, who lived in El Salvador as a child, grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, and moved to the Boston area just three months ago. Though El Salvadoran by birth, he received the name Antonio from his half-Italian adopted mother when he came to America.

The repeat customers at the truck know him for his courtesy and talkative nature. Recently I spoke to Saravia about his life and job after polishing off a quesadilla. The most important thing I learned is not to do an interview at peak lunch time, when you can be a liability to business.

The Tech: How many regular customers do you get a day?

Antonio Saravia: Oh, we usually get about 25 to 50 regulars a day. Or at least that’s the number of faces I recognize.

TT: How many one time customers do you think you get?

Saravia: I don’t know. I think once in a while I get some, but most are graduate students and construction workers and people from the buildings.

Maybe they come once, and I don’t remember them. But there are a lot I know by face and I talk to them ... and ask them where they’re from. I get some people from Australia, Italy, India, Yugoslavia, England, and Albania. They’re from all over, believe me.

I like that I get international customers because I’m not from here, either. I’ve been here for about 17 years, when an American family adopted me. My mom was from Madison, Wisconsin and my dad was from Wesleyan, Michigan. I went through high school in Madison.

TT: Do you have any rivalry or bitter feelings towards the Goosebeary’s truck?

Saravia: Not really. We just try to do our job here and let them run theirs.

TT: Why do you think there are so few Mexican restaurants in Boston?

Saravia: Because there’s not a big Hispanic population here. Why’s that? Probably because the cost of living is so expensive.

TT: This year, the MIT Card became available to many [food venues]. Did Jose’s notice any change in business between last year and this year?

Saravia: Nope, it’s still the same.

TT: What time do you get up for the job here?

Saravia: I’m awake at about quarter to seven. From my place, it takes me about twenty minutes to get here.

TT: Do you have any other job besides this one?

Saravia: No, just this one. Eventually, though, one of the things I want to do is become ... a periodista de guerra [war correspondent]. I think that would be a very interesting job.

TT: Were you upset that the Patriots didn’t make the playoffs?

Saravia: Not really. I’m not a Patriot fan at all. I root for the Packers.

TT: Should America go to war with Iraq?

Saravia: To me, I don’t agree with it. At all. But I just hope I won’t have to go serve there, you know?

TT: How do you deal with the extreme temperatures during the summer and winter?

Saravia: When it’s nice outside, it’s very warm in here. For that, we just open the windows in the back. We recently got more windows to handle the heat better. We also try to have food already prepared so the customers don’t have to stand near the truck all the time.

When it’s cold outside like now, from the waist up, it’s warm from the ovens and from the waist down, it’s especially cold because of the metal floors.

For that, we’ll put on extra burners for heat. We’ll even shut our front windows, too. Last week though, it was so cold and foggy that we shut our front windows, but the fog build up on the windows. People thought that we were closed. I had to write out “open” with my finger on the windows.

TT: Have a family?

Saravia: Not here. My mom and dad live in Portland, Oregon. They moved after I graduated. We visit each other every so often, but I go there more often. I only moved here three months ago.

TT: So Jose’s Mexican Restaurant serves the Harvard community, and the truck serves MIT. Which ones are the better customers?

Saravia: Oh, man. I can’t really judge because we don’t have a truck over in Harvard. Plus, if I tell you MIT, and they guys at Harvard hear about it, they’ll be like, “WTF?” And if I say Harvard, I’ll lose all business here. But it is great to be here.