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Las Cruces journalist Steve Ramirez remembers his friend Roberto


I’ve known of Roberto and his family for about as long as I can remember. Like so many Las Crucens who have lived through the years in the Mesquite Historic District neighborhood, Roberto and his family were pretty well known.

It was the old saying that “What You See” of Roberto was “What You Got.”  He was a quiet and humble man if he didn’t know you well. But if he knew you, he had a good sense of humor, and he had a knack of putting you at ease. He had a way of making everyone feel important.

Roberto didn’t especially like the limelight. From my perspective, he often tried to shy away from interviews, but, interestingly, didn’t run away from them, either. For times that I had to interview him for a story or to get information about an event, I often had to contact him through private numbers he would share with me. Interviews were never conducted between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. That time block was his to prepare for lunch and through the lunch rush. He often would take time between 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. for interviews and such, again, apparently so those things didn’t disrupt the dinner hour.

Roberto, the public figure, was a bit different than Roberto Estrada, the person. He almost always seemed more relaxed when you were just talking, visiting with him one-on-one. That’s when I would see more of his humor, warmth and compassion. In either scenario, I’ve always sensed a genuine compassion he had for people.

So many people came to him with requests. With me, I would like to believe he could come to me when he needed to get the word out about something he was directly involved in. He would call, explain what it was he was working on and we would go from there. I’d like to think, in that regard, I had earned his trust.

Did you know that his preparation to cook The Whole Enchilada involved a lot of painstaking work? He often spent winters, springs and summers updating and upgrading the equipment he needed to cook the enchilada. As the event drew near, most years he didn’t get very much sleep in days leading to the event. On the Sunday The Whole Enchilada was cooked, Roberto would begin preparing about 2 a.m. and often worked for several hours after the enchilada was made.

He often tried to seek donations for what he needed to cook the enormous enchilada, but just as often he ended up paying for those ingredients out of his own pocket. All those years Roberto cooked The Whole Enchilada, he never once said, or even estimated, how much it cost to make the enchilada.

He worked long hours and he worked hard. A lot of people may not know, or realize, that he was often in the kitchen at the restaurant getting orders out. If he wasn’t there, he was either at New Mexico Foods, next to the restaurant, or La Bonita, on Picacho Avenue.

Steve Ramirez is is a writer for the City of Las Cruces communications office, and before that, a longtime reporter with the Las Cruces Sun-News.