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SF State student demands a seat at the table for Mexican, Chicano culture

SF State student demands a seat at the table for Mexican, Chicano culture

Molcaxitl—pronounced (MOL-CAH-SHEE-TL) in the Nahuatl language, meaning molcajete—is the name 21-year-old Nomar Ramirez, a full-time business student at San Francisco State University, gave his food vending business at its inception in October 2020. Ramirez brought his idea to life to honor his roots and share his traditions, while drawing inspiration from Indigenous-influenced recipes on the “XOCO Kitchen” YouTube channel.

“The name is not easy to pronounce on purpose. I’m tired of the whole system that ethnic people in the U.S. have to abide by, which is basically do things so the white man can access them, and we constantly live in this upward battle of being put in the same positions as white people,” Ramirez said. “So Molcaxitl is a space crafted for Chicanos and Mexicans but is completely open to everybody else, I just refuse to use a name that is easy to say just so Tim and Carol can pronounce it.”

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Originating as a way to build community in a time marked by virtual events and social distancing, Ramirez, a first-generation Mexican American, created Molcaxitl as a way for Chicanos and Mexicans to unify through culture and food. Molcaxitl is an established food vendor at the Outer Sunset Farmers’ Market, appearing every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Their main entree? Tacos!

(Left to right) Nomar Ramirez, owner of Molcaxitl, sears Ayotli, a specially seasoned zucchini, on a grill as Magaly Ramirez prepares to warm up a hand-made tortilla at the Molcaxitl booth in Outer Sunset Farmers’ Market on Sunday Feb 7, 2021. Photo: Emily Curiel

100 percent of Molcaxitl’s employees are Chicano(a)/Latino(a), which derives from its mission to “pass on traditions.” 

“I aim to specifically prioritize them. I’m not opposed to having other people, but when you’re directly connected to that tradition, it’s a whole other thing. I want to create a space for the people who are working with me to be able to listen to music that they never listened to growing up, learn about the food, the culture and the history because I talk a lot about it to customers,” said Ramirez.

Mole, a new item on the Molcaxitl menu, is poured on top of turkey and rice in a clay bowl at the Molcaxitl booth in the Outer Sunset Farmers’ Market on Sunday Feb 7, 2021. Photo: Emily Curiel

Molcaxitl crafts its meals using locally sourced produce from Ferrer Farm. Using free-range, non-GMO meat from Modesto Foods and hand-made tortillas, this taco spot infuses it’s made-from-scratch food with unconventional Mexican flavors and Aztec recipes. The decision behind using more natural sources of ingredients, according to Ramirez, is inspired by Indigenous philosophies and practices with the earth. Ramirez wants to showcase to people that Molcaxitl is not just another regular taco spot, but a wholehearted place to enjoy a real taco.

“There’s a lot of time that goes into it, that could be avoided through paying for cheap, processed stuff, which is what people are used to. I’m trying to communicate to people that not only is our food a quality food, which is reflected in the prices, but also stray away from what they think Mexican food is… cheap and greasy,” Ramirez said.  “So that when they walk up to the booth, they already know they’re in for something different. I really want to give Mexican food a value, because it deserves respect.”

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Molcaxitl’s menu at the farmers’ market lists food options include: the “Ayotli” taco, which is Nahuatl for seasoned zucchini; the “Tōtolin” taco, Nahuatl for birria turkey; which could be replaced with the newest item “Mole”, a traditional marinade; and frijoles and arroz, in which the beans are infused with “epazote” and the rice infused with “achiote,” both native Mexican herbs. Customers who seek the full meal experience from Molcaxitl’s kitchen can enjoy beverages such as agua de jamaica and horchata.

Nomar Ramirez sears Ayotli, a specially seasoned zucchini, on a grill at the Molcaxitl booth in the Outer Sunset Farmers’ Market on Sunday Feb 7, 2021. Photo: Emily Curiel

Ramirez said while creating a safe space for Chicanos and Mexicans was at the forefront of Molcaxitl’s origination, the business is also a way for all to embrace and educate themselves on Mexican and Chicano cultures, including Ramirez himself.

Nomar Ramirez, owner of Molcaxitl, stirs Mole inside a clay pot to incorporate it with turkey and serve it as a taco or a rice bowl at the Molcaxitl booth in Outer Sunset Farmers’ Market on Sunday Feb 7, 2021.Photo: Emily Curiel

“I sometimes laugh to myself because my family came to the U.S. so I could become some doctor or lawyer, and here I am making tacos!” Ramirez said. “No but seriously, it feels incredible to know that at 21, I already own and run my own business while being the head chef, while getting my bachelor’s. It feels like I’m doing my part as a Mexican in pushing our people forward, and even more than that I’m continuing traditions that are dying before my eyes. It has all become my religion.” 

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