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Tacos Delta matriarch Maria Esther Valdivia dies at 74

Maria Esther Valdivia, one of Los Angeles’ taco matriarchs, died last week from injuries sustained after being hit by a car while using a crosswalk. The co-founder of the Silver Lake Tacos Delta institution was 74 years old.

In the days following Valdivia’s death, generations of fans stopped by to support the restaurant, which seemed to endure the vagaries of a neighborhood more commonly associated with gentrification and constant change. Longtime customers gathered on Tuesday to reminisce about a familiar face described as endlessly generous and loving.

“She was like a mother figure, like a loving grandmother,” said one customer, Jose Sanchez, near a growing memorial of flowers and keepsakes on the taqueria’s outdoor patio. “It’s so unfair what happened.”

On May 22, Valdivia was crossing Scott Avenue at Glendale Boulevard in Echo Park, within the confines of a crosswalk, around 1:45 p.m. when she was hit by a 1999 Mercedes-Benz E320, according to the New York City Police Department. Los Angeles. The driver “showed no impairment”, got out of the vehicle and attempted to help Valdivia, police said.

Valdivia was taken to hospital but died of her injuries on May 25.

Sergio and Maria Esther Valdivia have been making fan-favorite chilaquiles at Tacos Delta since 1981.

(Steve Lopez/Los Angeles Times)

The Jalisco, Mexico native co-founded the taco stand with her mother-in-law and her husband in 1981. Service was established at a window, where diners could grab their take-out food or sit on a patio covered for a taco, breakfast burritos, long-simmered soups, perfect chilaquiles and combination plates.

In the decades since, the family has weathered changes in neighborhood demographics as real estate prices skyrocket in Silver Lake and neighboring Echo Park, as well as through the recent pandemic, which has seen the closure of many restaurants.

News of Valvidia’s death spread throughout the weekend in the community of Silver Lake. On Tuesday, guests arrived to mourn, bring flowers and candles, mourn, and remember Valdivia with stories that even her own family didn’t know.

Carla Barboza called herself a regular at the brightly painted taqueria and described the place as a neighborhood institution. “It’s heartbreaking to hear that she is dead,” Barboza said. “They are such a beautiful family. And they survived all the changes that happened in the neighborhood.

The family continues to work

Valdivia’s four children were at work at the taqueria on Tuesday. Valdivia’s sons, Sergio Jr. and Osvaldo Valdivia, continued to take charge through the window overlooking Sunset Boulevard. Husband Sergio Valdivia also showed up to work in honor of his wife.

“We feel closer to her here,” her daughter Elizabeth Rodriguez said.

According to her family, Valdivia gave to charities and instilled in them a philosophy of compassion, respect and helping without doubting or wondering why. Over the years, Valdivia has distributed food and cash to the homeless.

“The community has been amazing,” said her daughter Irma Gonzalez. “He’s our second family – all of our clients are our family and they’ve supported us through this. We’re learning so much about his gift of nature from people who pay tribute to him.

Memorial to Maria Esther Valdivia includes candles, photos and drawings

“She would never say no to the beach,” Elizabeth Rodriguez said of her mother Maria Esther Valdivia. Above is a makeshift memorial at Tacos Delta.

(Nathan Solis/Los Angeles Times)

“She grew up poor. She knew what it was like to fall asleep hungry,” her daughter Elizabeth Rodriguez said.

“His favorite saying was, ‘When I die, I won’t take anything with me,'” Gonzalez said. “That’s why she was so generous, always making sure people got something out of their stay here.”

Sanchez, the customer, drove with George Enciso from Long Beach to the taqueria with a bouquet of flowers. The couple lived around the corner from the restaurant and always found Valdivia working with a smile. They were often greeted with a hug from the owner matron.

“It’s hard to believe she’s gone,” Enciso said.

They talked with her about Puerto Vallarta and going to the beach.

Valdivia planned to take a trip to her hometown of Jalisco, Mexico, her daughters said, and then visit Puerto Vallarta. Their mother was to fly the day she died; her packed bags were ready in the house.

“She would never say no to the beach,” Rodriguez said.

Maria Esther Valdivia is survived by her husband, four children, 14 grandchildren and a great-grandson.

Det. LAPD’s Calvin Dehesa said the department had video footage of the crash from a nearby business. As is customary in traffic fatalities, LA County District Atty. George Gascón will review the case to determine negligence and whether to refer it to the city attorney. Dehesa called the accident a “really sad, sad and unfortunate case”.

The whole family was still in shock, daughter Gonzalez said, but vowed to continue operating the taqueria together.

Even though Valdivia was retired, she continued to come to work, still riding the bus and still walking the rest of the way.

“She couldn’t stay at home,” Sergio Valdivia said on Tuesday. “She would have gone mad.

California Daily Newspapers

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