A Market Owner Serving San Diego’s Healthcare Workers Shares Their Guava & Cheese Empanada Recipe

Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla

Dressed in a mask, long sleeve shirt and protective gear, Eilene Beniquez is helping to man the line at her parents’ business. Similarly to Cuscatlan’s Nancy Alvargenga, Beniquez is among many Latinx millennials who are working to help keep their families’ small businesses afloat. The only difference is Beniquez has to be there physically because her parents are not able to.

“My parents are both in their 70s. They’re boomers. They should be isolated. They cannot be present during all of this. I’m handling things right now,” she tells Remezcla.

Beniquez, the daughter of owners Eric & Amanda Beniquez is taking the reigns at San Diego’s Tropical Star—a market and restaurant in San Diego—not just for her parents, but for the first responders that regularly frequent her family business. The family business has a history of helping to serve essential workers. Her father used to work at a hospital in New York before moving out west to open his own business.

Decades later, the family is continuing their legacy by making sure their customers and small staff have exactly what they need to help get them through this crisis. Tropical Star is located directly by frontline healthcare workers at Sharp & Children’s hospital.

“A lot of our customers are nurses and doctors. My community still needs its food,” Beniquez says.

The crowd of folks who are frequenting the Colombian and Puerto Rican business is diversifying, as well.

“With bodegas, you kind of recognize the same people,” Beniquez explains. “I see faces I’ve never seen before. They’re usually buying canned beans, corn, or rice.”

While the business has not personally seen aggressive hoarding, they did have shortages due to instances with manufacturers affected by COVID-19.

“We were sold out of rice for almost 20 days. When they finally came by to bring us our order, they only brought one bag,” Beniquez recalls.

At a time when folks are throwing down shade about the capacity of the younger generation, millennials are coming forward with a fierce affection for survival.

“I’m immunocompromised. My chef is too. I’m coming in any way because I’m a little bit stronger [than my parents and chef],” she says.

There’s beauty in generations coming together right now. It is truly the heart and soul of our culture.

If you’re local to San Diego, you can support the Beniquezs firsthand Monday through Saturday from 11 to 9 at their market where you’ll be able to not only order food to go but also walk away with special drinks from Latinx countries. Their Instagram is updated regularly with what exactly is in store.

But, wherever you are, go ahead and delight in this guava & cheese empanadas family recipe—usually cooked at their restaurant during Easter and Christmas seasons:

Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla
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