Hacienda Heights

La Mariposa

Through high school, my family’s Sunday morning was rather routine:

6:00-7:45: scramble to get six people ready (with one shower!), out the door and into the car. If my dad or Danny had to be early for choir or altar boy responsibilities they would leave earlier.

8:00-9:15: Spanish Mass at St. John Vianney, our home parish. Dad played bass with the choir. Mom was a Eucharistic minister, which means she handed out the host (consecrated bread) during Communion. Danny, Lori and I were all altar servers. Adrian just sat in the pew and pretended to be ill. He was always fine as soon as Mass ended.

9:15-9:30: help dad pack up his bass and music books, greet fellow parishioners, say hi to Grandma, Grandpa and tío Rick before they left (they always sat toward the back of the church while my mom preferred the first pew).

9:30: drive out to West Covina and wait in the Mariposa Inn (sometimes we’d go to another restaurant) parking lot or on the front patio until the doors opened at 10.

10:00-11:30: brunch at Mariposa Inn. Greet the owner, Raudel. Exchange pleasantries with our server — usually Nacho or my mom’s friend Mary. Then stuff ourselves silly on fresh fruit, Mexican breakfast dishes, giant burritos, fruit-filled pastries, chocolate-dipped strawberries. Wash it all down with Shirley Temples (kids) or coffee (adults).

11:30: say ‘bye to the grandparents, go home and take care of the ‘itis with a nice nap.

Sunday brunch hardly happened once Grandma got sick with complications from diabetes. After her recovery, we resumed the usual Sunday morning routine, but this time with the wheelchair in tow. The trips ceased after Grandpa was diagnosed with cancer and passed away a few months later in 1996. The restaurant held too many “tristes recuerdos.” Plus, Sunday brunch for a family of six was too pricey and we were going through some tough times.

Nowadays, our trips to Mariposa occur on special occasions. It’s the go-to restaurant for birthdays, anniversaries or other special occasions. The last time I went was for Lori’s birthday in January. The guys turned into gluttons and feasted on giant burritos. My mom had machaca, dad had huevos rancheros, Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni shared a dish. I had chilaquiles.

Once again, Nacho was our waiter. Nacho was the kind of guy who could make you feel better with his infectious cheerfulness. During Sunday brunch, he usually tried to cheer up Lori who was grumpy for some reason or another. This time, he didn’t have to cheer up Lori because she was in a good mood for her birthday. Instead, he plopped a sombrero on her head, placed a piece of flan in front of her and called the rest of the waiters to sing “happy birthday, Panchita.”

Before we left, we made sure to greet the owner, Raudel, always gracious and friendly. My parents met Raudel way back in the ’80s when they first started visiting the restaurant. Our neighbor, Mary (Summer’s mom) was a waitress and bartender there. Raudel had worked his way up the chain and at the time was the assistant manager. By the early ’90s he was the owner. I suppose he and my parents had a connection. They were all Mexican immigrants, and moreover he was a Zacatecano who loved tamborazo like my mom.

Even though the staff got older, just like we did, they never stopped making us feel welcomed even if we stopped visiting for months or years at a time. Some things just don’t change.

Except, they do.


Last night, my dad informed me that Raudel Guerrero, 57, passed away early in the morning on Thursday June 26th. He gave a busboy a ride home and fell asleep at the wheel. His van slammed into the rear of an 18-wheel tractor-trailer in Chino (link).

Services were held Tuesday night and Wednesday morning in Rowland Heights. Unfortunately, my parents learned of Raudel’s passing after the services and did not attend.

Raudel Guerrero is survived by his wife Julieta and their four children.


13 thoughts on “La Mariposa

  1. i am sorry to hear about the loss. death, although a part of life, is specially unfortunate when a person still has so much to give.

  2. jollop25 says:

    I knew Raudel for Many years and I was very shocked to hear of his passing. He was a very good and giving man. He loved the Mariposa so much and it showed everytime you visited. I had the opportunity to attend the services and they were beautiful, so many people attended that you would have thought that he was a senator or even president. From what I hear his family intends to keep the Mariposa open to honor him and his love for the Mariposa. So out of respect to him and all the years he dedicated to our families I say we should unite and spread the word to have everyone we know stop by and dine. Raudel would like for us to continue visiting and supporting his American Dream for his Family

  3. jollop25 says:

    One month has gone by and I still can’t get over the shock that Raudel is gone. Still so hard to accept and I know that his wife and kids feel the same way. After seeing all the newspaper articles and all the people who attended the services, I wonder if Raudel ever knew all the people that he touched. How many people respected him as much as I did. When I was last at the Mariposa I saw a certificate that stated that on July 2, 20008 ( the day of Raudel’s funeral) the City of West Covina adjurned all meetings for the day in Raudel’s Honor. Having known this man he would have been so honored. I have been a customer for many years and had many great conversation with my Friend Raudel. He worked at the Mariposa for 33yrs, he started as a waiter, then manager, and finally owner. He was proud to have been born in Zacatecas Mexico and proud to have realized the American Dream having become a American Citizen approx 5 yrs ago and become owner of his business. He was extremly proud of his 4 children and 3 grandchildren. We always seem to talk about his grandson Jose and His son who was a model because they reminded him of himself when he was younger. He loved and respected his wife Julie so much, he always said that he was the man his was today because of her, although he always said jokingly not to tell her.
    Raudel loved his family life as much as he did his friends. He was always so honest and caring, it never mattered if you were rich, poor, famous, or not. Raudel always helped out the community and schools, he never said NO. He even would give customer rides home if they could not make it home on there own. The morning that he passed he had just dropped off one of his employees at his home, minutes before his accident occured because he didn’t want his employee to drive home that night because he had a few drinks after work.
    Raudel loved Tamborazo music and his all time favorite singer was Antonio Aguilar. In a nut shell Raudel was a great man, like I have never known and I know that it will take many of us a long time to recover from this great loss but I know that he is smiling down on us now sitting very tall to see home much love and respect so many of us had for him. I also know how happy he must be to see that we continue to visit his beloved Mariposa and that we extend our support to his wife and kids.

  4. lilia says:

    i’ve read your website for a few years now and I don’t know how I missed this post. I knew Raudel well, having worked at the restaurant for a short time after I graduated from high school. He was such a nice man and even now 3 months later I can’t believe he’s gone.

  5. Maria Mota says:

    Thank you all for the comments of my brother Raudel.
    Hola soy hermana de Raudel, Ayer mi hermano cumplio 3 meses de su partida, y el dolor esta presente como el primer dia. Queria saber algo de el y me encontre con este bonito relato, de alguien que no era de la familia y les doy las Gracias desde el fondo de mi corazon, por esos bonitos recuerdos de Raudel.

  6. cynthia gurrola says:

    i would really like to thank you for the nice post on my godfather , i really appreciate it , he was a good man and will be greatly missed

  7. Me says:

    On November 26, 2008 it will be 4 months since we lost my dad, Raudel Guerrero. I still can’t believe he is gone, some days are harder than others. These coming days will be the hardest for us, the holidays where the days that we spent with my dad as a family no matter what happened. At times it is like a part of us died with my dad, the happy part. I miss him so much, I could go on and on about how great he was but I guess everyone who knew him knows that already. I wish there was someway to get rid of this empty feeling that we feel but the only way would be to have him back. If I could just see him one last time, hug him, kiss him, and tell him how much I loved him. I know he knew this already but I would have like to tell him one last time. I love him so much!!!

    I want to thank you all for all the nice things you have written about my dad, for your condolences and your support. If you still have your dad in your life go to him hug him, kiss him, and tell him how much you love him cause you never know when God will scope him up and take him home.

  8. Monica says:

    Daddy, It has been a year that you left us, 1yr without you. You left so suddenly that I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. So today I write because I’d like to tell you how much I love you and miss you, your leaving has been the most difficult thing i have ever had to face in my life. You know we made a colage of photos, everyone helped by giving any photos they had of you. You were so loved daddy and its cause you were always so generous, loyal, and honest. You always had a smile for everyone, good advise, a joke, huge, or kiss. So noble and sincere was your heart. Although you were sometimes tired you never gave up, you held on to life and strived to reach your dreams. You taught us this for one reason “LoVE”. That is why I never wanted to think about the day that you would no longer be here. I’ll never accept the fact that you had to leave without me saying goodbye, that I’ll never be able to talk to you or touch you. I know eventually I will learn to live with this intense pain of loosing the most significant man in my life who loved me unconditionally but for know I will so everyone that I am fine, only I know what I feel on the inside.
    I miss you so much, it is a pain that only i know, I keep you in my heart. When the time has com for my eyes to close forever you will be there to guide me and light the way to you. This is why I try to be like you, follow your steps, examples, and advise. I know I am far from it but I will keep trying because I am sure that it is the right road to where you are. The day that I am able to see you once again, that will me the happiest day of my end.
    I Love You Daddy and you are gone but never forgotten.

  9. Maria Mota says:

    Hermanito te sigo sonando casi todos los dias y tu sonrisa no se me olvida a cada momento. hay momentos que parece mentira y creo que voy a hir al Maripossa y ahi te voy a ver. Te quiero mucho.

  10. Pingback: Lotería Chicana » Blog Archive » The mouse and the butterfly

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