Family, community, culture and tradition is what brings Alba Lopez, local Nicaraguan food business owner of Fritanga Nica, to serve the Humboldt community a rendition of her home country’s food.
Lopez migrated to this country in the 80’s with her three daughters. She fled during the Nicaraguan Revolution in her home country, in search of the American dream.
“I came to this country by myself with my three daughters to start my American dream,” Lopez said. “Which for immigrants doesn’t become a dream, in many cases, it turns into a nightmare.”
Lopez followed her daughter up to Humboldt State University for her enrollment period at the school. She worked hard juggling one to two jobs at a time while selling nacatamales outside of grocery stores in Eureka
Lopez has been in business since 2010 selling her famous nacatamales. She shares
that people recognize her and her food. Through this recognition she has been able to sell at places like Henderson Center, Fortuna farmers market and the Arcata farmers market.
What are nacatamales?
According to Lopez, the word nacatamales is rooted in the Nahuatl language which is an Indigenous language in Nicaragua. Nacatamales are pre-Spanish. They come wrapped in a banana leaf with corn maize and wild pork inside. Some recipes have integrated with African culture and created various fillings inside of the Nacatamal.
Lopez shares the recipes of her grandma, her great-grandma, who have passed them down integrating all of the culture descending from African culture. Lopez doesn’t shy away from her African roots as she mentions her great grandfather was Afro-descendant whose influence comes through in the food.
Even though these recipes have been passed down from generation to generation, that doesn’t stop Lopez from combining new flavors and spices based on the culture in
“I have integrated a combination of culture, a combination of ingredients which makes the food interesting, and a savory palate of flavor for this community,” Lopez said.
Nacatamales isn’t the only thing that is on the menu. Fritanga Naca offers Nicaraguan style Jerk Chicken and Nicaraguan style pupusas.
Lopez shares that the pupusas are most popular amongst students and the nacatamales are popular at farmers’ markets.
Through the progression of COVID-19 Lopez’s business has been able to flourish because of the lack of vendors. This has given her an opportunity to sell her delicious food at the Arcata farmers market on Saturdays.
Moving forward Lopez hopes to own her own commercial kitchen where she can offer to-go options. She is currently dedicated to perfecting her business, food, and recipes.
She shared that her family, children, and the emergence of community here in Humboldt county is what keep her motivated.
“I want people to know when they eat my food it’s the food of Nicaragua,” Lopez said. “The food of my culture and roots.”