The tortilla is such a ubiquitous part of Mexican cuisine that, sometimes, it can get taken for granted. While a steaming portion of grilled chicken or steak steals center stage, the noble tortilla provides the perfect, understated backdrop. One man who hasn't forgotten about the importance of a fine tortilla is José Velasco, the owner of Tortilleria Familiar El Arriero. When Velasco opened the tortilleria's doors five years ago, he wanted to fill Johnson City's consistent demand for tortillas, and he wanted them made right.
“We really only have authentic, Mexican tacos,” says Ricardo, Velasco's 16-year-old son. “A lot of restaurants don't do that, but we have just basic, authentic food.”
Daniela Mena Dau, a 34-year-old Chilean native, is bringing the art of salsa dancing to Johnson City. Once a month, Dau and her dancing partner BJ Goliday host salsa lessons at Bodega 105, a local Latin American restaurant. Before the class starts, Dau takes time to mingle with her students. Dressed in a fiery red dancing costume, it’s apparent that she’s the instructor.
The band starts up and fills the cozy restaurant with the hypnotic beat of the Latin music. Students of the class eagerly make their way towards the front of the venue. Dau and Goliday, sensing that it’s time to begin, head for the stage. From 8 to 11 o’clock, Dau and Goliday will lead the restaurant’s patrons in various dance steps.
Yesenia Cruz Pascual only knew about three other Hispanics on campus before joining the Hispanic American Student Community Alliance. She felt that not being able to interact with other Latino students was affecting her ability to keep in touch with her Spanish heritage.
“Since I only get to go home every three months or so, and I call my mom like once a week, I didn’t get to practice my Spanish very often,” said Pascual, president of HASCA at East Tennessee State University.