Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza Sees Business Boom as She Stands Up Against SB 1070

Barrio Cafe chef Silvana Salcido Esparza swears she's not a politician -- nor does she want to be one. But when SB 1070, the controversial immigration law, was about to be passed, she couldn't bear to stay in the kitchen. 

So she headed to the State Capitol, to chat with the young people who came out to protest. Her message? 

If you disagree with the law, get out there and vote.

"I also want to tell them, 'Put your money where your mouth is,'" Esparza says. "'Get some of that Starbucks money out and give it to causes you believe in.'"

Esparza disagrees with SB 1070, and adds, "You can't pretend there is no problem with illegal immigration. There's a reason why these people are coming to this country in droves. Desperate people do desperate things, and people are living in fear and terror."

The drastic increase in violence has kept her from returning to her vacation home there, where her neighbor was killed and his pregnant wife, an American citizen who grew up in Mexico, had her throat slashed.

Since word's gotten out about Esparza's activism, via an article in the Republic, the James Beard award-winning chef has been bombarded with feedback, both good and bad. The restaurant's Facebook page has become a long list of raves and the occasional rant.

"I had somebody tell me, 'Fat dyke Mexican, go back to Mexico where you were born' -- and I was born in L.A.! I also had somebody sending me pictures of beheaded bodies. And then there was a guy telling me, 'I'll never go to your restaurant again, even though I love your food.' So I wrote back to him and thanked him for standing up for what he believes in, and he ended up changing his mind about me," she says.

"There are plenty of people who are supporters of the bill who've said, 'Right on for standing up for your beliefs.'"

Thanks to the exposure, Barrio Cafe has been exceptionally busy during a time of year when things usually slow down. Last week, there was even a wait for a table during lunch.

"The response has been overwhelmingly positive," says Esparza.

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