By: Joseph L. Campos Jr.
By: Joseph L. Campos Jr.
The City of Buena Park was as festive as can be this Wednesday as thousands of people flooded Beach Blvd. to celebrate the grand opening of the legendary, Porto’s Cuban Bakery and Café. With the closest location being in Downey, the small town who’s official title is “The Center of The Southland,” broke ground today by bringing Orange County it’s first Porto’s bakery and a new flavor of Caribbean Cuisine.
“We wanted to follow our customers,” said Porto’s Co-Owner, Beatriz Porto. “We recently conducted a survey of the population of the City of Downey and we found out that most of the customers that were visiting that particular site weren’t even residents of Downey itself. They were all Orange County people. We wanted to give our customers what they wanted and decided to shift our bakery down here. It took us two years to find the right spot and it took us a year to build the actual venue after that. Our dream was to find a place right by the freeway and guess what…we got it.”
Beatriz knows a whole lot about big dreams coming true. Both her and her family are the epitome of the American dream. They had to flee Fidel Castro’s communist ran Cuba during the 1960’s after both he and Raul Castro took over the island and ruled the people through brutality and corruption. At the time before making their escape from Cuba to the United States, Beatriz’ father (Raul Porto) was forced out of his place of employment at a Cuban Cigar making warehouse and was sent to an actual concentration camp.
Beatriz’ mother (Rosa Porto) was of Spanish decent, and also worked at the Cuban Cigar making warehouse as an office manager. She too was forced out of her job by Castro’s regime. In her father’s unfortunate absence, both Beatriz, and her mother Rosa had to use their culinary arts skills to help fend for the family financially in order to survive. With the help of her siblings, Raul Jr. and Margarita, Beatriz and the others helped their mother run an illegal baking business out of their house. This was extremely dangerous, and they could have all been killed by Castro for such activity. The Porto Family survived in secret like this for almost 12 years, often relying on neighbors to hide them from Castro’s trooper raids that were hell bent on keeping the public from being self-reliant and making money for themselves. Eventually, the family was fully reunited, and they made the exodus to America. In 1971, the family finally received the liberty that they had strove so hard for and made their way to The City of Angels.
“We know what it is like to struggle, to live hard, and to come from nothing. This is why we treat our customers as family, because they are family. We are not just trying to treat this whole thing as a business, and as a way to scam money off of the people,” explains Beatriz. “All of the people that you see in the crowd behind me are family. We make our treats and food cheap, of good quality, and most importantly… affordable. We understand that times are still hard, people are suffering. We are not here to exploit them or to financially crucify them. We are here to support the everyday citizens.”
These statements, and sentiments were further reinforced by world renowned award winning Hollywood actor, Andy Garcia, who has headlined in epic films such as ‘Cristiada For Greater Glory, The Ocean’s Eleven Trilogy, and Confidence.’
“My family and I also immigrated here to the United States from Castro’s communist Cuba. We too were trying to escape political persecution,” Garcia lamented during a press conference. “We managed to escape during the 1960’s. I first came into contact with the Porto Family in my youth. They took me in and would always look out for me. They would always make sure that I ate and would always give me free treats to eat and coffee to drink.”
Many politicians from several cities within Orange County were on hand to commend the efforts of the Porto Family for doing good business within the community and for beautifying a portion of the city that they considered notorious for being riddled with crime on Beach Blvd. during the 90’s. “We love working with small cities,” states Raul Porto Jr. after he received many awards from the politicians like Buena Park Mayor Elizabeth Swift and U.S. Senator Ed Royce. “Our family likes to set big goals to help communities and we like to incorporate projects. We are just looking for different ways to get involved.” When asked about what he loves most about the new Buena Park venue, Raul stated the following. “Right away, we could see that the locals here are wonderful. Our new customers have been very supportive and the neighbors like Knott’s Berry Farm, Pirates, Rock & Brews, and Medieval Times, have all been so kind and gracious. Buena Park is just so filled with love and in turn, we hope that we can teach the citizens here more about the Cuban culture, our food, and our family values. We encourage more to come out, and to be part of the community.”
It is this kind of good spirit that attracts Porto’s customers and what inspires them to stay loyal to the brand. They show love and respect to their customers and in turn, the public loves, and respects them enough to keep coming back. “I am a long time customer of Porto’s, I have been going to their Downey branch for years,” states Mardiana Hardi of Anaheim. “I remember them saying that they had been planning to come to Buena Park by winter time, and now they are finally here. I am so excited.” Hardi has been a resident of Anaheim for five years, but has lived in the greater Orange County area for a total of ten years. “I first started coming to Porto’s after my Bible Study friend invited me to attend after we would leave Church at Hope International University in Fullerton. I am a Christian and our church would hold our potlucks there.” Even though Hardi is of Japanese and Chinese decent, she has always had a deep love for Cuban Food and a strong love for Latino Culture as a whole. “I love the Hazelnut Kisses. Those are my favorite. I also enjoy the Guava Struttle, and their signature Mamey Shake. The fruit is always fresh here and the service is always great. The staff is just awesome. All I can say is that Porto’s is going to need a bigger parking lot, because they are going to get a lot more customers.”
Hardi’s prediction looks as if it is going to come to pass, as the crowd of excited new customers danced and swayed with Knott’s Berry Farm’s Snoopy, to Daddy Yankee and Pitbull Reggaeton music, while they waited in a huge line that stretched all the way around past the Medieval Times building.