By Michael Roberts
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Virgil Aguirre moved to Denver in 1961, not long after his father, Beto, a longtime journalist who had his own newspaper, was strongly encouraged to leave Mexico — or prepare to dig his own grave. The eldest of eight kids (only four of whom survived), Virgil had worked for his dad on the paper in Mexico, and worked with him again on the paper that Beto started in Denver.
In 1970, Virgil married Rosa Linda Garza, who'd come to Denver to visit her sisters in 1967, met Virgil at a dance at La Fiesta, went back to Mexico, then moved to Denver for good in 1969. As she told Westword's Robin Chotzinoff in 1994, "Virgil's father was a very strict man, real proud. I thought, okay, he can have his newspaper. I just wanted his son." But the newspaper did not make enough money to support their growing family, and Virgil quit the business. "I gave up and went to work in construction," he explained in that same cover story. "I thought, I will bury my pen ten feet underground and just make a living. Everyone thought I'd last about three hours, but I lasted thirteen years." He lasted until the economy went sour and the construction work disappeared.
He looked, but couldn't find another job. Rosa Linda had — but they were volunteer posts, working in the community. Virgil decided they should go into another family business — Rosa Linda's sister owned El Noa Noa — and name a restaurant after her. "I thought, everyone knows her, it will be easy," he says. "It wasn't." They worked long, hard hours; so did the kids. At fourteen, Oscar would do his homework at the restaurant, then wait on tables, then help Virgil clean the place at closing time.
Somehow, the restaurant survived, and the family was able to make the balloon payment on the building that soon came due. And Rosa Linda, who'd converted to Mormonism as a teenager (Virgil converted when times were tough in the early '80s), did what she'd promised God she would do in thanks: She fed the needy at Thanksgiving.
That first Thanksgiving, the family served a hundred people. The tradition, like the Aguirre family itself, grew. Last year they fed 5,500 people. And this year?
"It's called Rosa Linda's annual feast," says Oscar, who over the years has served in the Army, gone to culinary school and returned to the family restaurant. "But it's the community's feast."
For the Aguirres, the big date next month is not November 6, but November 22. They're starting to stockpile the ingredients for the green chile and turkey they'll be serving at the Thanksgiving feast. They're arranging to use ovens next door, in the restaurant that will be opening soon in the corner space of their building. And they're organizing volunteers — suddenly a much bigger list than they're used to, as people continue to ask what they can do. In the past, such familiar names as Congresswoman Diana DeGette and Senator Mark Udall have helped serve the meal; if Barack Obama or Mitt Romney wanted to stop in this time, Oscar says, they'd be welcome, too. Although it might be tough finding them a place on the line.
All of this outpouring of support has given Oscar an idea. He's asking people who want to help with the feast to "look within their own communities for seniors, single moms, veterans who need a meal, and get us their name/number/address." And then on Thanksgiving, the Aguirres will package up meals for these people, meals that volunteers can deliver. "We as a community can reach out so much more," he says.
"We are family," he concludes. "A very extended family."
Let us give thanks.
So now people issuing death threats to a family because of supposed political leanings deserve respect?
I think this story is ridiculous. To add to more division and not show respect for both sides is childish.
Bravo Irony. Oscar wanted his 15 mins of fame and he got it. Once the hype slows the restaurant will go back to the dismal numbers of patrons it had prior to his slap in the face of the republican party.
p.s. One visit was enough for me to know I could get a better burrito at taco bell.
If this story is anti-anyone, it is anti-knee-jerk-reaction-hateful-republican-voter. The story here isn't about Romney, it's about the shit storm of putrid hate that the family faced, and the reasonable members of our community that came to their defense.
Why, WHY Is Westword continuing to cover this? If you knew Oscar or even glanced over his fb page BEFORE the media firestorm, you would see that this was, indeed an Anti-Republican move and one that they are capitalizing on every day. Lets try some fair, balanced and certainly; unbiased journalism and let Rosa Linda's go back to business without the mainstream "media" attempting to rebuild a poorly thought out media stunt in the first place.
@devra2000 , To the contrary ! It was Mr. Romney who wanted his 15 minutes of fame. This is not a slap in the face to the Republican party (though if anyone ever needed one, it's the hypocritical GOP).
Romney wanted to ride on the backs of honest citizens, to try an give the impression he "cares" about them. It was a proposal for a contrived photo op. Mr. Romney tried to USE the Aguirre's. When he was rightfully rebuffed, the Ditto-heads came out of the woodwork with their trademark hate, intimiddation, and death threats. BRAVO! to the Aguirre Family in standing up for honesty and community involvement.
I, among many, will make it a point to drive across town to eat the excellent food and appreciate the attentive and socially conscious work that's done at this fine restaurant.