Rosa Linda's Nourished the Northside Community for Decades
In the 1980s, Rosa Linda Aguirre dreamed of opening up her own restaurant but with young children and her husband working full-time, there were too many obstacles at hand.
But one day, while working as a teacher’s aid at her kids’ school, a parent dropped off a flyer about a building for sale in the Northside. It was the perfect location, close to her home and children’s school. Unfortunately, her bid was denied but Aguirre didn’t give up hope. One year later, she opened the doors of Rosa Linda’s Mexican Cafe in that same spot, which became a staple of the community for decades.
Aguirre didn’t know anything about running a restaurants, despite her two sisters each having their own, but she knew how to cook and was determined to figure out the rest. The first thing she did was call the Denver Health Department asking for advice on how to setup the kitchen.
“At first, it was a little bit hard, it was hard, you know, my husband was still the only person working. And I told him too, viejo, este es mi restaurante, this is my restaurant. And you go to work and I'll stay here,” she remembered. “My sister, my friends, my brothers, they came, they helped me at the restaurant. And then I'm like, wow, this is a special place for the comunidad, for the community.”
Photo by Emily Maxwell
For 30 years, Rosa Linda’s Mexican Cafe provided neighbors with more than just authentic Mexican food: they were given a place for community. Aguirre’s restaurant was where families celebrated milestones, politicians would gather and teachers would bring students to practice singing or performing.
Giving back to the neighborhood was at the heart of her mission as a restaurateur. Aguirre started a Thanksgiving tradition where she provided free meals to anyone in need. It started out with a handful of volunteers making roughly 150 dinners but evolved to hundreds of volunteers feeding thousands of people over the years.
Photo by Emily Maxwell
“I did not know how much the people really wanted to be part of the Thanksgiving dinner,” she said. “And that was one of the things that I miss and I knew I was going to miss it because it was part of my life, you know, to feed the people, to see the people, my friends, mi familia, you know, because we were a big family.”
Emily Maxwell is a multimedia journalist and producer for the Denver Office of Storytelling. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.