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home : news : news June 27, 2022

6/23/2019 12:21:00 AM
Borja Family: From Mexico To The United States
Immigrants run local chicken restaurant
Macario and Gina Borja
Macario and Gina Borja

(Top) At Chicken Bucket, owner Macario Borja prepares a batch of batter for fried chicken. Recently naturalized as an American citizen, Borja is living his dream. 
(Bottom) Gina Borja brings out a salad. 
(Photos Courtesy Thomas Lark)

(Top) At Chicken Bucket, owner Macario
Borja prepares a batch of batter for fried
chicken. Recently naturalized as an
American citizen, Borja is living his dream.

(Bottom) Gina Borja brings out a salad. 

(Photos Courtesy Thomas Lark)

Thomas Lark
Staff Writer

MOUNT HOLLY, N.C. - Immigration is a hot topic across America these days.

But it’s also a topic often buried in dry statistics and other abstractions. So The Herald is herein putting a human face on this issue, offering you the opportunity to learn more about these new Americans. And quite often, in fact, they just might be your new neighbors.

Meet the Borja family: parents Macario and Gina Borja, respectively 40 and 38, and their three children. Daughter Cinthia is 11, and sons James and Jerome are respectively 7 and 5 years of age.

The kids were born here. Raising them as Americans is important to Mr. and Mrs. Borja, hence their English Christian names, not “Diego” and “Jerónimo.” 

Mr. and Mrs. Borja are the owner-operators of the Chicken Bucket restaurant, located just down the road in Mount Holly. But don’t expect las fajitas y cervezas here. It’s a thoroughly American restaurant, serving up various versions of fried-chicken dishes, salads and more, all with a flair more Southern than anything this side of your grandma’s table.

As Mr. Borja explained, he and his wife became naturalized American citizens about two years ago now, around the same time that they became the proud owners of Chicken Bucket. He added that he came to North Carolina in 1999, joining his cousins here.

“I started work in construction,” he recalled. “But I didn’t like it. So I started working restaurant jobs. I’ve been doing this for 20 years.”

Members of the Aztec-based indigenous peoples of the region, Mr. and Mrs. Borja grew up in Guerrero, located on the Pacific Coast of Mexico and tucked into its southwestern corner. Apart from the resort city of Acapulco, Guerrero has long been typified by its ubiquitous, grinding poverty and its widespread, dangerous crime.

Indeed, it is possessed of the second-highest poverty rate of all the Mexican states, and it ranks number-one among those states in terms of work-related emigration to America. It’s a place so crime-ridden and dangerous that the U.S. State Department strongly recommends that no one travel there, according to writer Eduardo Juárez Cortés. It’s a place from which many understandably want to escape forever.

And doing just that was Mr. Borja’s dream.  

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“I come from a small country town in Guerrero,” he said, adding that his father was a vaquero who owned cattle. “At 15, I left for the big city of Acapulco and worked in a bakery there. I went to school in the afternoon and at night. But I didn’t finish, because I came to this country.”

These days, Borja, who just bought his first house in Gastonia, likes calling Gaston County––y Carolina del Norte––home. And you might say folks are flocking to Borja’s chicken-based restaurant, coming in from all over Gaston and Lincoln counties and beyond.

“I like to serve the Mount Holly community,” he said. “I like the people and the weather here. There’s too much snow in New York, for example. But here, it’s similar to Acapulco. I’ve worked all my life. I like owning my own business. This is my dream. I like the restaurant business. This is my future.”

Borja added that he’d like to expand his business. Future plans include a possible second Chicken Bucket in Gastonia.

Of those coming into the United States from Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, Borja noted that the situation is a mixed bag.

“There’s a lot of crazy people and a lot of good people,” he observed. “But I don’t like to talk about it.”

He did note that Latino immigrants are now everywhere in America and throughout the world, working in construction, landscaping, roofing and other such jobs. 

The next generation

Cinthia Borja just finished up at University Park Creative Arts Elementary in Charlotte. She and her brothers will soon transfer to another school in Gastonia.

“I have a lot of friends in school,” she said. “I’m a quiet person in school. But I’m loud at recess!”

Miss Borja added that she has never experienced discrimination.

“We’re living in a better world today,” she said.

Like her parents, she, too, looks to the future. She is concerned about taking better care of the planet.

“It’s fun exploring places,” she said of Gastonia. “There are lots of places we haven’t been before.”

Mrs. Borja said she most enjoys cooking and preparing the food at the restaurant. And work, as her husband noted, is what life is all about.

“Mucho trabajo!” he said with a smile, meaning “much work,” in Spanish.

Formerly open seven days a week, the restaurant recently adopted a six-day schedule, allowing the Borjas a much-needed day of rest on Mondays.

“That’s our family time mostly,” Miss Borja noted, adding her parents “get to spend time with us kids then.”

Returning to the topic of work, her father talked of the difficulties of immigration.

“Coming to America is not easy,” he said, “not for people who live in my country. But I like this country, because it has many opportunities for everybody.”

His wife agreed.

“Working hard is everything,” she observed.

“But I recommend it,” her husband said of immigration, hard work and pursuing the American dream. “For me, it’s not easy. But if you like to work, you can have a better future for your kids. This is what I’m trying to do. That’s the reason I work all the time. And I see a difference here every day. I try to do the best for my customers. And they take care of me and my business. It’s all about my children. I have a different future than I would have had. And now, so will they.”

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, June 24, 2019
Article comment by: Cindy Beal

Thank you for sharing their story. I wish them the very best.

Posted: Sunday, June 23, 2019
Article comment by: Sharon Shaner

Thank you for the article on the Borja Family from Mt Holly. It is important that we are able to put a face to the statistics and to get past the nasty news about a few bad apples.

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