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The all-encompassing term Latino implies a sameness to a growing Pasadena population that is, in truth, extremely varied. The extent of that variety can be glimpsed in short profiles of just a few of the city's Latinos. : 'We believe in working within the system. Others of our people feel you have to be an activist, or a rebel (to succeed).'

December 08, 1991

For Victor and Lila Cuadra, owner-operators of Burrito Express, one of Pasadena's few Latino-owned businesses, pride has played a major role in their lives. It was pride that prompted them 13 years ago to open their fast-food Mexican restaurant on Washington Boulevard.

"It used to bug us," recalled Lila, 46. "Anglos used to say (of Mexican restaurants), 'It's a hole in the wall. Awful, but the food is good.' "

The Cuadras, both native Mexicans who were raised in Los Angeles, created in 1978 a gleaming, American fast-food restaurant serving authentic Mexican food. Within two years, Victor quit his job as a California Highway Patrol officer to run the business full time.

It now grosses nearly $300,000 annually in sales. National business magazines have written stories on the tiny Mexican restaurant that sends frozen burritos nationwide via express delivery.

The Cuadras are mindful, however, that it took six years of 16-hour days to succeed, another point of pride.

"We believe in working within the system," said Victor, 47. "Others of our people feel you have to be an activist, or a rebel (to succeed)."

The Cuadras belong to several educational and business organizations and hope their pride of accomplishment will inspire other Latinos to follow their example.

"Don't forget that California once belonged to Mexico," Lila said. "We (Latinos) shouldn't get left behind."

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