'A Friend Told Me How Nice Telluride Was’
TELLURIDE – Mixing a fresh margarita in her warmly-lit restaurant, Esperanza Reyes listened from across the room to the sound of a steak sizzling. She can’t let it cook too long or it will turn tough as shoe leather, but she also knows that table 12 is ready to order, and could use a salsa refill.
The 34-year-old manager of Tequilas on Main Street in Telluride is accustomed to this level of multitasking and hard work. Having emigrated from Mexico, raising two children as a single mother and working in the foodservice industry for most of her adult life, for Reyes, the hectic ebb and flow of restaurant life is nothing new.
Reyes left her native Michoacán at age 15 without speaking a word of English, settling in eastern Washington State to live with family members already settled in the U.S.. She began working in the apple orchards – work she was accustomed to, having grown up working on her father’s cattle and horse farm. Despite the language barrier, Reyes finished high school and went on to enroll in a nursing program at the local community college.
Her college career, however, was cut short by her ability to qualify for in-state tuition.
Rather than returning to the orchards, she found work as a busgirl at Tequilas, a Mexican franchise, in Wenatchee, Wash.
“At the restaurant, my hands wouldn’t blister and I wouldn’t be out in that hot sun or freezing cold,” she recalled.
Reyes met her future husband at Tequilas; the young couple became friends with Jesús García, owner of the Tequilas franchise, who offered the newlyweds work at one of his restaurants in Glenwood Springs. After giving birth to two children – Rudy and Venezia, now ages 12 and 9, respectively – the marriage failed, and Reyes became a single mother.
“I found a nursing program at the local community college,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to become a nurse, because I like interacting with and helping people.”
But working as a full-time server at Tequilas, raising two children and attending college all at the same time put too much of a strain on her. Now divorced, and having dropped out of nursing school, Reyes moved with her children back to Mexico, where she took care of her mother, who had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Despite the divorce, and her mother’s declining health, Reyes looks back on that time fondly.
“Rudy and Venezia were able to spend time with their grandmother, and attend school there,” she said. “I wasn’t working as much, so I was able to spend lots of time with them, help them with their homework and take little trips with them. It was nice.”
“Everything happens for a reason,” said Reyes. “My mother was sick for a long time. But when she became healthy again, my children wanted to move back to the U.S., because they were raised here. Their English is better than their Spanish. America is their home.”
Two years later, Reyes returned to Glenwood Springs, and convinced García to let her open her own Tequilas somewhere in Colorado.
“A friend told me how nice Telluride was, so I visited. I remember parking my car on Main Street and just standing and looking around at how beautiful the mountains and town were. They reminded me of the Michoacán countryside.”
Since the restaurant’s opening this fall, Reyes believes she chose the right town in which to live.
“I haven’t skied in years, and it’s nice that I’m so close to this mountain here. Plus, I’ve made good friends since I moved here; most of them are regular customers here at the restaurant,” she said.
Rudy and Venezia also like life in Telluride.
“They’re signed up for Ski P.E., and they’ve been doing well in school,” Reyes said, adding that their multinational heritage gives them the ability to interact with all their peers.
“I was only a few years older than Rudy when I had to leave Mexico to find opportunity,” she reflected. “But neither of my children needs to do that,” Reyes said.