A Taste of Freedom

Salvadoran immigrants have a hunger for the good life.

The jukebox is crammed with international pop hits -- try finding "Lágrimas Negras" at your corner saloon -- and on select weekend nights, the San Marcos's plain-Jane dance hall reverberates with nostalgic hits played by top-drawer bands imported from back home. "It can get expensive," Garcia-Zuleta explains. "Five thousand. Ten thousand. But our customers love it."

They also love it when the proprietor, taking a break from his usual duties, performs a little tableside sleight of hand, making a nickel disappear, then retrieving it from a patron's lapel, or pulling a quarter from a pretty woman's ear. To see Tony Garcia at work and play in the joyful confines of Café San Marcos, you can scarcely imagine that El Salvador endured more than a century of noche obscura -- political darkness -- that now serves to remind us of all the world's perils.

Still, even as you sample a beautifully browned pupusa stuffed with queso and loroca (the delicately sautéed blossom of an unnamed Salvadoran vegetable) and listen to "Toda Una Vida" on the jukebox, you can't help noticing a framed display mounted on a dark wall opposite the bar. Gobernantes Salvadoreños, the legend reads, and the long succession of official presidential portraits, steeped in military plumage and threatening glower, suggest a history of terror that Salvadorans wouldn't care to revisit and the anguished citizens of the rest of the planet shouldn't care to prolong -- not in Pakistan or Iraq, West Africa or lower Manhattan. But as Roque Guillermo Luna, staring down at his plate of tostadas, observes: "Governments change. Economies change. Even ideas change. But does man's nature change? I don't care to speculate on that."

Café San Marcos delivers back-home flavor to immigrants.
Anna Newell
Café San Marcos delivers back-home flavor to immigrants.

Location Info


La Praviana Pupuseria

2231 S. Broadway
Denver, CO 80210

Category: Restaurant > Eclectic

Region: South Denver


La Praviana
2231 South Broadway, 303-722-0129
ours: 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday, Thursday-Sunday
6 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday

Café San Marcos
9935 East Colfax Avenue, Aurora, 303-341-2939
Hours: 10 a.m.-9p.m. Monday-Thursday
10 a.m.-1:30 a.m. Friday-Sunday


Instead, we have a good lunch and talk about soccer.

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