The Mundo Latino Taco Shop in Oxford, Mississippi was established after a series of trials and tribulations by owner, Pedro Leyva. Originally from Rio Grande, Zacatecas, Mexico, he first came to the U.S. in 1984, working in Texas for three months for $13 a day. Leyva’s immigration story — documented here by filmmaker Pankaj Khadka for the Southern Foodways Alliance — includes several attempts to cross the border, all driven by the fact that “we didn’t have jobs in Mexico,” Leyva says. He crossed through the Rio Grande several times, once on inner tubes, once walking for nine days through mountains. One attempt led to a three-month-long incarceration.
Leyva is now in his 50s and is a citizen of the U.S.; after working in several states, he decided to stay in Oxford. At the time, the region’s growing Spanish-speaking community needed a way to send money to their countries in South and Central America, and Leyva first established a grocery store that could provide that service.
Eventually, Leyvas’ wife and friend convinced him to expand, and the group established a taqueria known in the area as simply “the Taco Shop.” The kitchen provides an array of dishes — tacos, burritos, tortas, and quesadillas — for hungry diners. But for Leyvas, the restaurant offers so much more. “If we had stayed in Mexico, it’s difficult to live,” he says. “This is the opportunity country — everybody has the opportunity to do whatever [they want], make a business.”