Oakland Taquería Shut Down After Influencer Visit, Community Rises to Help
In November 2022, the San Francisco Chronicle called owner Maria Marquez’s flour tortillas the best “the Bay Area has ever seen.” A crowd favorite? The taquería’s “yaqui taco,” which included melted cheese, a fresh chile and carne asada. Yum.
Tacos Mamá Cuca experienced major success early on— which, unfortunately, contributed to their downfall. With lines forming down the block of Marquez and her husband Juan Carlos’s home, someone allegedly contacted city officials to shut the taquería down.
“There were people who began to say they would talk to the Department of Health and all of that, and well they did it… the city came and stopped us,” Marquez explained to Univision.
Now, the famous taco stand is trying to bring their Sonoran tacos to their very own food truck. While they say acquiring the truck is “quite expensive” and they “do not have the resources” yet, patrons are donating to their GoFundMe page to get the taquería back on their feet.
The owners say the city issued their taquería a warning after influencers posted about them on Instagram
Marquez explained to Telemundo that Tacos Mamá Cuca started out as a quiet home business only few knew about. “Basically, it was a calm business. We sold very little, only on Saturdays and Sundays.”
However, little by little, new fans contributed to their massive success. As Marquez mentioned on her GoFundMe page, the San Francisco Chronicle wrote an entire feature about the taquería and its viral bacon-wrapped burrito.
Famous chef Samin Nosrat wrote to her hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram, “Holy moly [Tacos Mamá Cuca] is the taste of Sonora in Oakland I’ve been dreaming of.” As you can expect… the taquería soon had a much larger clientele.
So large they could barely feed everyone. The taco stand owner recalled to Telemundo, “We had around two weekends that the line would go up to the street corner, tons of people.”
You can see just how long the line was to get the taquería’s Sonora-style fare here:
Apart from grabbing the attention of news outlets and big-time chefs, Tacos Mamá Cuca was also featured by several social media influencers. Case in point? One viral Instagram video by an influencer that featured the taquería… and got nearly 100,000 likes.
While the influencer professed her love of “mom and pop taco shops” like Mamá Cuca, many commenters warned against featuring the taquería. One user wrote, “Take this down so they don’t get in trouble!!!”
Another added, “God please protect this hard working family. Please remove this for their safety.”
Meanwhile, another influencer’s TikTok video on the taco stand got more than 370,000 views:
Now, owner Marquez recalled to Univision: “An influencer came and did a super viral video about us.”
“Social media is a two-sided coin, good and bad,” she added.
Over on their GoFundMe, Marquez also wrote: “Attention is a double-edged sword. The attention on social media also generated a lot of hate and racism towards us.”
“People started to organize in the comments to get the city of Oakland to shut us down.”
Now, Tacos Mamá Cuca is collecting funds to open up a food truck
As per Univision, city law states that any food business run inside a residential home must sell a maximum of 60 plates a week. Sales must also not exceed $50,000 a year.
Marquez explained, “Basically, that doesn’t work for us because many people come to our [stand].”
As the owner wrote on the taquería’s Instagram, “While our rating of popularity is going up with tons of blessings, [it’s hard to say but with some hate too.”
“[It] was too much hate from this person that they [snitched] on us and now the city will not allow us to continue selling at our home. We are doing our best to find a new location.”
The new location in question? Well, Tacos Mamá Cuca’s new food truck— built by patron donations.
The owner wrote on the stand’s GoFundMe, “My husband Juan Carlos and I, Maria Marquez, owners of Tacos Mamá Cuca, are raising money from our community to buy and operate our own food truck.”
They will have “all the required documents and permits” to once again serve Oakland “the magic of Sonoran style tacos.”
Even more, Marquez wrote a bit about the story behind her taquería’s name. “The name Taco Mama Cuca celebrates my mother, Mama Cuca, who taught me to make the flour tortillas… We make each tortilla by hand.”
“My husband Carlos, who is always behind the grills, works hard to bring you the most perfectly smoked meat that Sonoran tacos are famous for,” she added.
“We preserved nights and days to get to where we are right now. And it hasn’t been easy. We started with very few customers, but we slowly grew our base.”
“We ask for your help at this time so Tacos Mama Cuca doesn’t remain a memory,” they said.
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