For my Language Capital Project investigation, I wanted to understand the role language played in place-meaning and placemaking. As an Arizonan raised in a large Mexican-American household, it was an exciting opportunity to explore a bilingual space near my community in Marana, Arizona. Notably, I wanted to give cultural acknowledgment to spaces where Spanish speakers, like my family and I, may gather within a rural area like Marana. Hence, I decided to interview a family-owned fast-food Mexican restaurant, Nico’s Authentic Mexican Food, or known by locals as Nico’s, located in Marana Main Street.
There is a small selection of restaurants to choose from in Marana Main Street, a few of which are family-run businesses. With a small community like in Marana Main, it can be reasonably easy to familiarize oneself with the community restaurants. Nico’s, alone, has welcomed a significant presence of language and culture through its food since it was first opened to the community in 2003 by Rene Carreon and his wife, Felipa Carreon.
Mr. Carreon’s family and mine have been close friends for years. Nico’s was a local restaurant where my parents can order food while communicating in their cultural language, Spanish. Bilingual spaces that share the same cultural and linguistic background, as my family and I, are essential to locate because they have allowed us to feel connected to our own culture and feel a part of the Latinx community here in the United States.
I had previously interviewed Mr. Carreon and received some insight into his restaurant. Still, I wanted to conduct a follow-up interview to ask more questions regarding his place’s meaning and how language plays a role in it. Mr. Carreon was aware that the interview would be voice-recorded and used for academic purposes. When necessary, I took in-between pauses per question or at any moment, so he felt at ease. Overall, as an interviewer, I wanted to make my interviewee feel comfortable to elicit sincere responses.
As far as how the interview went, from my arrival, Mr. Carreon demonstrated prodigious hospitality. He was cordial, receiving, and respectful. Considering that our families are close friends, the first initial conversation regarded seeing how the family was doing. It is not surprising since a typical opening conversation in Mexican cultures is about family. On one occasion, I even witnessed him kindly greeting a customer as he walked into Nico’s, almost as if he was welcoming them into his home. The language primarily spoken throughout the interview was in Spanish, with occasional code-switching on both sides. Mr. Carreon’s responses, which regarded place-meaning and the language atmosphere, reflected the importance of family, faith in his religion, and gratitude for his roots, all of which are essential elements in Mexican society. The restaurant itself appeared to be like the inside of a home. The menu is in both Spanish and English. The restaurants’ bright colors were like a reflection of the warm and lively Mexican culture. Recognizing that Marana is a predominantly English-speaking American population, Mr. Carreon finds it an excellent opportunity to bring diversity into the community with his restaurant and welcomes everyone to come and enjoy delicious authentic Mexican food. Overall, Mr. Carreon embraces his Mexican culture through his identity, language, values, and restaurant.