Hispanic Heritage Month: Guatemalan family shares journey of success in Green Bay

After moving to the U.S. 18 years ago, they took English and culinary classes and opened Pablo's Mexican Grill and Cantina 5 years ago
Published: Oct. 12, 2022 at 7:49 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - On Kepler Dr. in Green Bay, you’ll find Pablo’s Mexican Grill and Cantina.

Monday through Saturday, the owner Pablo Torres is cooking away in the kitchen.

Five years ago, he opened the restaurant. It was a dream he’s had since moving to Titletown from Guatemala.

“Almost 18 years ago, I decided to move to U.S. with my sister. She lived in California, and I moved to California,” he said.

Pablo worried for his two children’s safety there just like he and his wife, Claudia, did in their home country.

“We don’t want them to be in our country. The situation in our country is really bad. There is not enough jobs. There is not opportunities. Even if you study and graduate, there is not too many opportunities over there,” said Claudia.

They heard good things about the Midwest, and now their kids--Katherine and Pablo--are pursuing their own goals while helping out with the family business.

“I do everything. I bartend. I serve. I clean,” said Katherine while admitting she didn’t cook. “They would not bring me back to the kitchen. I would burn the whole thing down. They keep me in front. I’m the pretty face.”

Pablo said, “I’ve always tried to be just a support for them, with it being hard to find workers. Just being that extra person to make sure that every day goes smoothly.”

Since the pandemic, finding help has been hard. However, it’s been just one of the many obstacles Claudia and Pablo have faced. When first moving to Wisconsin, they felt alone in an unfamiliar town where the culture and language were different.

“When I came, I knew a little bit of English. Basic words and everything like that,” said Pablo

The couple took English classes and studied at local colleges like NWTC for Claudia.

“I graduate from the culinary program. I went over there, and I studied that and graduated with honors,” said Claudia.

That knowledge helps create the delicious Mexican meals at their restaurant. Claudia said Mexican food fits the American palette better than Guatemalan food which has more flavor, but it’s still a taste of Latin America for a growing Hispanic community in Northeast Wisconsin.

“When we move over here, years ago, you see people but not so many people. Right now it’s growing, and I think more people are open, and they’re accepting of more,” said Claudia.

Pablo added, “It’s nice to see people. Like they try to get something better and better for themselves.”

They said their children are the reason they keep going.

“This is our legacy to them,” said Claudia.

She and Pablo hope their dedication will not only inspire their kids to pursue their dreams but their community as well.

“Don’t worry about the past. Don’t be afraid about the future, but work hard in the present time. The harder you work...it’s a pay off eventually,” said Claudia.

The restaurant will reach its five-year anniversary in November.