When one walks through the door of El Girasol, the feel of Mexican culture is striking. The items on the shelf are labeled in Spanish, a painting of the Virgen of Guadalupe hangs on the wall, and the music playing over the radio is in Spanish. El Girasol is business that includes a grocery store, restaurant, bar, money wiring services, fried chicken and tortillas, and traditional clothing used for Baptism and First Communion Ceremonies.
José Soto is the owner of El Girasol, which he opened fourteen years ago. Originally from the state of Michoacán, he lived in Atlanta before coming to Tennessee. In total, he’s lived in the United States for twenty seven years. He is very rooted here; his wife and children live in Knoxville and he has brothers living in Indiana, while his parents continue to live in Mexico.
Juan Pérez works in the meat and vegetable sections of El Girasol; he’s worked there for three years. Originally from the state of Jalisco in Mexico, he lived in Arizona for fifteen years before moving to Knoxville five years ago. His family lives in Knoxville with him as well. Pérez speaks a little English; he’d like to learn more but doesn’t have the time he needs to devote to school because of his work.
Felipe de Jesus Mojica Sena is from Veracruz, Mexico and his wife and children are currently living in Puebla. He came to Knoxville from Mexico eleven years ago and hasn’t returned or seen his family since; he uses Skype to talk to them when he can. Felipe works selling the fried chicken and tortillas they make to customers; he also wires money to Mexico for people. He’s worked at El Girasol for the past eight years.