The Legendary Cuban Baker Rosa Porta Died on Friday at the Age of 89

The Los Angeles community is grieving after learning the news that Rosa Porto, founder of the legendary Cuban bakery Porto’s, died on Friday. The news was announced via Porto’s Instagram page. Porto was 89.

According to the business’s Instagram page, Rosa Porto “passed peacefully” on Friday “surrounded by her loving husband and family”. The post went on to describe Porto as an “incredible woman” who began her illustrious career by “selling cakes and pastries to friends and family”.

Porto’s started off humbly enough, with Rosa started her business by baking cakes for her children before her neighbors started asking her to make cakes for them.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Porto and her family emigrated from Manzanillo, Cuba to Los Angeles in the early 1970s. Their story is a common one for Cuban emigres, with the family leaving Cuba to escape the oppressive Castro regime. “You lived in a little bit of fear,” Porto told the Los Angeles Times in October. “When you requested to leave, they fired you from your job.” In Cuba, Rosa and her husband struggled to thrive in the communist government. Rosa lost her job as a manager at a cigar distributor and her husband, Raul, was sent to work at a labor camp. 

According to the Portos, the relocation was difficult for the family, who came to the U.S. “flat broke”. While Raul took work as a janitor, Rosa baked and sold cakes to neighbors in her Cuban community. But as the demand for Rosa’s baked goods increased, the Portos saw an opportunity for growth. 

The Portos’ empire began in 1976 with a small bakery in a strip-mall in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Silver Lake.

And although the family-owned bakery sold Rosa’s famous Cuban cakes that originally made her popular, they also expanded their menu to reflect local demographics. “We made Mexican bread because that was the neighborhood. We started changing based on whatever the clientele demanded,” Porto’s daughter, Margarita Navarro told the LA Times. “We wanted to be welcoming to everyone,” said Antonio Salazar, Porto’s VP of production.

And evidently, their business plan worked. Anyone who’s ever visited one of the three locations scattered throughout Los Angeles is immediately struck by the seemingly never-ending influx of customers. The bakeries were notorious for their long lines and chaotic dining rooms. According to the Porto siblings, the bakeries would sell on average 520,000 potato balls and more than a million cheese rolls on a monthly basis. “If we didn’t have the volume, we’d have to raise the prices,” Rosa’s daughter, Betty Porto, told the LA Times in 2016. The Porto’s business plan is part of what makes it so great. In 2016, Yelp named Porto’s the “Best Restaurant in the Country” based off of positive reviews.

Although Rosa Porto will be missed by both her family and the LA community, her legacy will be remembered as that of a hardworking businesswoman and a loving mother and grandmother.

According to the company’s Instagram post, Porto retired from running the bakery in her late 60s to “focus her love and passion on raising her seven grandchildren”. The family concluded the announcing of her passing with this heartfelt statement: “To all of our family, friends, and guests from across our communities: though there are no words that can convey our sadness at this time, we would like to express our sincere gratitude for all the love and kindness you have shown us throughout the years”. 

Naturally, Angelenos have taken to Twitter to express their condolences over the loss of this legendary Latina matriarch.

One could say that Porto’s was integral in shaping the LA food scene into what it is today.

This person had massive praise for Rosa Porto and her legacy:

Not many restaurants can claim the same sort of cultural impact that Porto’s can.

This person shared how integral Porto’s has become in their personal life:

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that there is always a Porto’s box at an LA party.

This Latina shared how Porto’s helped rep Cubano culture in the best way:

Porto’s: saving Cuban mothers’ time since 1976.

This person summed up Rosa Porta’s legacy wonderfully in a single Tweet:

What better legacy to leave behind than pure happiness for thousands of people? Rest in peace, Rosa Porto.

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