When Nashville Star winner Buddy Jewell attempted a comeback with the controversial anti-immigrant ditty “This Ain’t Mexico” in 2008, he never could have guessed that he’d be working at a taco stand in Santa Rosalia just a few short years later.
“It’s funny the curve balls life throws at you sometimes,” says Jewell, as he waits for his boss Javier to return with more tortillas so that he can take his lunch break. “Pienso que… sorry… I think that it’s for the best. Realistically, at my age, I wasn’t going to have a long run on the charts anyway, and I didn’t really have many other job skills to fall back on. So I’ve been hanging out down here, picking up some español y sipping some margaritas. Life is good, hombre.”
Just then, Javier returns with a sack of fresh tortillas, telling El Gringo Gordo (“an affectionate nickname he gave me,” Jewell explains) to take treinta minutos for lunch and be back to finish off the day or else he’s fired. It seems Jewell has taken some extended lunch breaks lately, getting too caught up in games of fútbol with some friends across town. Among his fútbol friends, Jewell is known as El Cabrón, presumably a reference to Italian-American gangster Al Capone.
“Javier’s just kidding,” says the singer-gone-taco-chef over carnitas and a rerun of popular telenovela Maria la del Barrio at the apartment unit he shares with a Mexican family of eight. “He wouldn’t actually fire me. It used to be that all I knew of Mexican culture was fajitas and Johnny Rodriguez, but I’ve learned a lot more since working with Javier and moving in with the Hernandezes. We just had a quinceañera for Lacey a few months ago.”
Jewell hasn’t left the music world behind completely: If he can save up enough money from his job at the taco stand, he’s hoping to exploit Mexican national pride with a new song called “Eso No Está America.”
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