Taqueros and bartenders can be considered interchangeable professions in Mexico with the only difference being that one serves food and one serves drinks, respectively. What they both share in common is providing a small escape from the outside world and an opportunity to bond over delicious provisions. Luckily enough, Vancouver FC and Alejandro Díaz have found their own taquero in Arturo Muñoz and the “Taco Factory.”
For the last three years, Díaz has been playing far from his native home of Mexico and, at some points, just living by himself. Even when he was joined by his loved ones there was always a bit of homesickness and missing the Mexican culture. As soon as he joined Vancouver FC, he was welcomed by a couple of “compadres” in Arez Ardalani and David Nava. “This is something I never experienced before, I felt a bit like home as soon as I walked into VFC,” shares Díaz. “This is something we should be proud of, having so many Mexicans is an honour but also a responsibility to represent our country in the CPL.”
One thing that makes a strange land feel a little bit like home is finding authentic food that brings back childhood memories. This was something the Díaz was on the hunt for when he joined VFC and it didn’t take long to find (or walk to) a local Mexican joint. Just a couple blocks away from Willoughby Community Park, a spot named “Taco Factory” caught his attention and was hooked after his first bite. Díaz was sold after Muñoz hit him with a “¿Les gusta el chile?” (a double-entendre) and he knew that he found an authentic escape to home but also new friend.
Muñoz, born in Mexico City and immigrated to Vancouver in 2014 with the goal of making a living through his cooking skills. He first started with a food truck named Los Luchadores (The Wrestlers), “It was really tough at the beginning because I had to move around Vancouver a lot and it was really hard to find some good places.”
His efforts paid off and Muñoz opened his first restaurant franchise, “Taco Factory,” in 2019 and then his second location in Langley in 2022. “I think that’s one of the things that the Mexican people have. We fight, we struggle and we keep fighting until we get what we want,” continues Muñoz.
“That’s amazing that I share [the quality of determination] with Arturo. Our people are stubborn. If we find a roadblock, we can go around or find another way through. It’s always good to see another Mexican killing it,” Díaz reflects on Muñoz´s life story.
Soon enough, Díaz slowly introduced many of his teammates to the authentic eats at Taco Factory and shared a small piece of his home with them in the process. This is a privilege that Muñoz is proud to provide to others, “I’m happy that all the players and all the staff come to the restaurant and have great food, have a little bit of chat, have a little bit of distraction.” Muñoz continues, “I’m just happy to be in this country and I’m proud of being from Mexico City, of my culture, my background.”
Ardalani, assistant coach for VFC, shares that sentiment. Growing up in Texas just across the border from Matamoros, Tamaulipas, where his mom was born, helped him to be raised with Mexican values and traditions that now he tries to pass along with other members of the club. “I think Taco Factory has been a great place for us to bond and has acted as a hub that reminded us of home,” shares Ardalani. “I think being so far away from home, [Taco Factory] is incredibly important for us so we can keep our identity and never forget where we come from.”
“Now, the Mexican guys in the team, we come here to the restaurant, we can all share everything after training or games,” says Díaz. “We just love it. Everyone loves the food in the restaurant, it’s a really good connection between Taco Factory and VFC.”
No one ever said that being a taquero or bartender is an easy gig. However, it is places like Taco Factory and people like Muñoz who are taking on those tasks to do what they can to bring happiness to their community. For Muñoz, that is happening one taco at a time.
To celebrate “El Grito de Independencia de México”, Vancouver FC and Taco Factory are partnering up to give you the ultimate match experience. Stay tuned to our social media to enter a draw for two $10 vouchers for Taco Factory, VFC scarves and two tickets for our next home game against Halifax Wanderers FC on September 23. You can also get your tickets through this link or Gate 1 at the Langley Events Centre. ¡Viva México! ¡Viva Canadá! ¡Viva Vancouver Football Club!