Located in the heart of Los Angeles’ Koreatown is the Oaxacan institution, Guelaguetza. The James Beard Award-winning restaurant was established by a young immigrant more than two decades ago when he arrived in the city with a dream of contributing to his new community and country. What he found was that he could do just that through the cuisine of his home.
Upon his arrival in Los Angeles, Fernando Lopez recognized a strong Oaxacan presence in Koreatown, and––at the urging of his friends and neighbors––opened Guelaguetza in 1994 as an offering to that community. He was quickly joined in its operation by his wife Maria Monterrubio. Today, along with their daughter Bricia Lopez and her siblings, the family continues to offer of themselves and their culture––and in doing so, have reached far beyond the borders of K-town and their fellow Oaxacan immigrants.
The restaurant is renowned for its mole, Oaxaca’s most celebrated dish, but Guelaguetza––which means “mutual health”––carries a philosophy strongly rooted in broader Oaxacan tradition: the idea that everything is communal. At its core, the restaurant is an expression of love for community––both in LA and Oaxaca. By serving family stories on each and every plate, they’ve become ambassadors for their beloved home in Mexico, for guests in the country they’ve so fully embraced. And that is what makes Guelaguetza a truly American restaurant.
Today on Life & Thyme, we share a collaboration with RYOT to explore that story––of immigration, culture, community and multi-national pride––on a new storytelling platform as dynamic as the Lopez family itself.