Boyle Heights Restaurant Raises Money for Oaxacan Residents Affected by Wildfires

 X’tiosu restaurant owners Ignacio and Felipe Santiago Marcial are supporting their hometown

Oaxaca, Mexico

Photo: Pixabay/ Urik Amador

Located in southern Mexico, the state of Oaxaca is known its rich food, culture, and biodiversity. It is also home to 16 different Indigenous groups including the Zapotecs, Mixtecs, Mazatecos, and Mixe, making up more than half of the entire country’s population who speak an indigenous language. However, the state’s rugged terrain, which prevents outsiders from entering, has also made it easy for the government to neglect the people who live there, leading to high poverty rates and slow responses to natural disasters. Most recently, a forest fire erupted in the Oaxacan town of San Lucas Quiaviní on February 28. Not only were locals cut off from supply trucks, but the state government also didn’t issue an emergency plan until two days after the fire was reported and five people had already died trying to put it out.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the border, Zapotec brothers Ignacio and Felipe Santiago Marcial, who own the Mexican-Middle Eastern fusion restaurant X’tiosu in Boyle Heights, California, are raising money to support the local residents. They are originally from the neighboring town of San Felipe Güila where many of their family members still live and which has also been affected by the wildfires. But thanks to donations from their followers through Venmo, they have been able to send water, food, and other supplies to the community and fire fighter brigade, according to Boyle Heights Beat.

“We want to share that there’s a fire burning in several communities around our pueblo, Güilá in the Central Valley region of Oaxaca,” the brothers shared from the X’tiosu Instagram account in a video post. “This is a video our sister sent us from our parent’s house. You can hear my mom and my sister talking to each other. You can also hear a community announcement asking for volunteers to help put out the fire The fires are threatening several communities that are already suffering from the lack of rainfall and water.”

Felipe and Ignacio first opened X’tiosu in 2017 after immigrating to the U.S. and working in restaurants across L.A. to support their family when they were just 14 and 16 years old. The restaurant, which is named after the Zapotec word for “thank you,” is known for uplifting the brother’s Indigenous Oaxacan food with a Middle Eastern, Mediterranean twist through plates like the falafel pita burrito, chorizo kebab, and chicken shawarma. In the meantime, they’re doing what they can to send money home so their family can purchase essentials for themselves, the surrounding community, and more than 200 volunteers endangering their lives to fight the wildfires. Five men have died in San Lucas Quiaviní trying to control the fire: Rafael Antonio Morales, Pedro Curiel, Jose Hernandez, Felipe Garcia, and Celso Diego.

“We mourn the terrible deaths of five residents of San Lucas Quiaviní in a fire that threatened their community,” Oaxacan governor Salomón Jara Cruz stated in a post on X. “Designated officials are continuing to work to control this fire. I send my deepest condolences to the families affected and reiterate our support and solidarity.”

Officials have not yet stated what caused the fire. Just this year alone, there have been 50 wildfires in Oaxaca and six are still active, including one near the village of La Compañía. The brothers are continuing to accept donations through their Venmo, which is posted on Instagram, and there is also a GoFundMe that was started by Jose Curiel, a local from San Lucas Quiavini, to support the ongoing fire fight.

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