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Family Is Everything

What Thanksgiving Means To The Garcia Family

"Family is everything," says Fanny Jimenez as we talk about what Thanksgiving means to the Garcia family. Fanny is the sister to three brothers, Glen, Alonso and Ricardo Garcia, and the daughter of Rosa and Alonso Garcia, the matriarch and patriarch of the Garcia family. The Garcia family owns seven restaurants in North Alabama and one in Rome, Georgia. With names like Buenavista, La Esquina, if you live in North Alabama you have no doubt been a patron at one of their establishments. 

It is a beautiful fall day as the Garcias gather around the table for Thanksgiving. The breeze rustling through the hundred year old trees on Glen's Monte Sano property carries with it the laughter of children and baritone voices of storytellers. The grandchildren and great grandchildren are dressed in their best. Rosa and Fanny have been cooking since morning making homemade tortillas, rice and beans, and Chile rellenos. Megan Garcia, Alonso's wife, has decorated the table and placed pitchers of Agua de Jamaica, also known as hibiscus tea, at both ends.

Thanksgiving to the Garcias is a time when the all the family living in Fort Payne, Scottsboro, Cullman, Huntsville and Rome, Georgia will travel to be together. "It is a very important time when we know we will get to see the whole family. We will give thanks as a family for all God's blessings - our houses, new babies, our businesses. And we will celebrate our love of food." 

When Fanny says "the whole family", she means it. One Thanksgiving 115 family members gathered to share Thanksgiving. They had to find a place to rent that would accommodate such a large group. With family coming in from all over North Alabama, they settled on Fort Payne. "That is my favorite memory of Thanksgiving. I remember all of mom's siblings and there were 32 grandchildren there." She continues, "No one wanted to leave and we celebrated that year until after midnight playing games, dancing, holding babies."

On the table that particular Thanksgiving there were eight turkeys. Each family brings a dish to the Thanksgiving table, whether it is a meat, a side, a dessert, or a traditional Mexican recipe. 

Aside from the traditional American foods of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and dressing, the Garcias also serve traditional Mexican foods like homemade tortillas, Chile rellenos, refried pinto beans, pozole, tamales, Chocolate Abuelita (Mexican Hot Chocolate), and salsa de molcajete. "Salsa de molcajete is something my mom Rosa is known for. She taught us all how to make it. If one of my brothers comes over, he goes straight for the fridge to see if I have it in the fridge." Fanny adds, "If you want to entertain those are the staples - beans, homemade tortillas and salsa de molcajete - and you've got yourself a party."

With any holiday especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, it is important for the Garcias to bless and help others. "Mom taught us to not only receive but also give," states Fanny. "With every holiday we celebrate this - Thanksgiving, Christmas, 4th of July, and even Cinco de Mayo. Cinco de Mayo is of course a big holiday for our restaurants, so you will find all of us working and helping each other out in every restaurant we own. It's just what we do." Grandmother Rosa made sure to instill in each of her children that the holiday season was a time for giving back. "Mom has always made sure that at Thanksgiving and Christmas each year we did things to give back to those in need and that is something we continue to instill in our children and grandchildren."

When asked what legacy they want to leave for generations to come, Fanny without hesitation says, "One of a strong family bond and work ethic. Our family motto is Never give up. It is what we live by - never ever give up." In fact this became their motto 14 years ago when Fanny's nephew Alex passed away suddenly at 12 years old. Alex was a force of nature and was always telling other family members, "Never give up." His passing was very hard for the family and Never give up became the phrase they turned to during those difficult days and dark hours. Now every family wears a bracelet with Alex's saying on it. On days when Fanny thinks she is ready to retire, she hears Alex saying, "Never give up."

With a new generation of Garcias as young adults they are always keeping the family on their toes asking, 'What's next?' "It is the younger generation that inspires us to keep going and keep growing with fresh ideas. They encourage us to try new concepts and think outside the box."

The whole family is on a group text and then each in a sub group text as well - cousins, nephews, nieces, parents, etc. Juliana Jimenez, Fanny's daughter, says, "Each family member is just a phone call away. We know we can count on them to celebrate achievements or get through hard days. We also know each other's strengths and who to call with specific questions. We are each other's support system in all we do. We always consult each other and value everyone's opinions and advice."

Alabama is The Garcias' home. It is a place they love for its hometown feel, yet incredible growth that is great for opening businesses. It is the place where their American dream came true. "Huntsville has been the most welcoming city," Fanny says, "People here support local businesses." Juliana continues, "It is a growing city and a great city for raising a family." 

It is a very important time when we know we will get to see the whole family and we will give thanks as a family for all God's blessings - our houses, new babies, our businesses. And we will celebrate our love of food.